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Mystery Monday – Die Buying

Die Buying by Laura DiSilverio

 

 

Review by reacherfan1909

 

 

Allow me to say that Amazon has seriously profited from my membership in PBS.  I have found lots of new authors and books just looking at the wish lists of friends with similar taste.  Mystery swaps always find me adding new authors and books.

That said, cozies run hot and cold for me.  I almost hate trying new authors, because I get 50 pages in and end up disliking the characters so much, I quit reading.  That happened with Pepperoni Pizza Can Be Murder by Chris Cavender, book two of the Pizza Lover’s mystery.  Never read book 1, and now I never will.  I was so bored and irritated, I quit at page 35 because I wanted to smack the irritating Eleanor Swift for excessive wallowing in post death depression and immature selfishness (10 years of marriage and 3 years of wallowing?) and spit on the ‘pizza’ – any North Jersey/NYC native would do the same.  It was with some trepidation that I picked up Die Buying by Laura DiSilverio.  The cutesie title was a bit off-putting, and the book was a debut novel for the author and the series, so it was a dark horse.  But with Amazon’s 4-for-3 sale, I went nuts and got a bunch of new authors all of whom are wish listed on PBS.  More books for swaps!    Luckily for me, Die Buying was a winner.

EJ Ferris was a veteran MP and investigator in the USAF until an IED ruined her knee and lower leg and ended her military career.  At lose ends in Walter Reed rehab, she couldn’t see going back to live the Hollywood elite high life with her parents, despite loving them both.  But Grandpa Atherton, a long retired CIA operative living in Virginia, needed someone to keep and eye on him and that helped EJ too.  Her disability kept her off police forces, so the only job she could find was as a mall security.  Not the excitement or challenge of her former job, but it paid the bills.  Her childhood friend, Kayla, a former silver medal Olympic athlete and current roller derby player, owned a shop in the Fernglen Galleria, and having an old friend around helped.

The story opens with animal activists breaking into the Herpetology Hut and setting loose the snakes, lizards, and tortoises.  A cleaning man ends up with one leaping on his head, and the hunt is on for the other scaly denizens.  Grandpa Atherton needs to stop playing spy and alarming customers, so EJ has him find some equipment that will help locate the coldblooded animals before any more shoppers attack the critters.  Then a woman starts screaming.  Imaging a corn snake or iguana was the problem, EJ aims her Segway toward the screams and finds a young woman with a stroller having hysterics.  But it’s no snake or lizard.  It’s a dead man in the window of an upscale woman’s clothing store posed in a beach chair stark naked.  The cop in her wants to investigate, but she knows better and calls the cops.

EJ is a serious irritation to her boss, Captain Woskowicz, a man with no police or security background who drinks too much and thinks he’s a ladies man.  He dislikes having having an experienced investigator on his staff.  She’s a threat.  Barely getting along, EJ does her level best to avoid him.  Right now, she just has to point him to a camera crew looking for an interview and he’s a happy camper and she’s, temporarily, off the hook.  But Detective Anders Helland has a low opinion of ‘mall cops’ and won’t even listen as EJ tries to explain her background.  This is police business.  A part of EJ understands, but resents his attitude.  Another even bigger part hates being on the sidelines.  It’s frustrating.

Jackson Porter was not a loved man.  He was a developer, a womanizer despite being married, and a future threat to Ferglen with his new resort/golf course/mall development right next door.  But he’s not EJ’s only problem.  There’s been a rash of tagging on cars parked in the mall lot, all of them with biblical verses.  EJ sics her grandfather and his spy toys on them when the mall manager has his beloved Karmann Ghia tagged.  But the suicide of a planning board member shuts down the investigation as ‘solved’.  Too many loose ends for EJ.

The rude Det Helland and EJ cross paths again and again – including over a dead body of another mall guard.  He’s infuriating and shuts her out completely, though he does have the grace to apologize when he learns of her service and experience as an investigator.  But that’s all she gets, no info or inside track, just another firm rejection putting her in her place.  Then there’s the gun toting new owner of the food court cookie concession.  He keeps showing up at odd times and ducks her every question about his background in law enforcement.  Whatever he is, he isn’t some simple baker looking to date Kayla.

The story is told in a no nonsense fashion and Ms DiSilverio does a terrific job with her lead characters.  EJ was three dimensions without ever playing for cheap emotions or angst.  When her leg gives out in a chase, her frustration and anger at her injury ring true, as does the way she chafes at not doing ‘real’ police work.  I like, too, that there was no angsty, emotionally battered childhood.  Her dad might be a famous movie star, but he’s still happily married to her mom and they love both of their children – the daughter the cop and the son, the globe trotting investigative reporter.  Her Grandpa Atherton might be a bit contrived, but he’s well done and likeable without being over the top.  Her friend Kayla also feels right, including the rough spots in their relationship.  Det Helland will likely get fleshed out, as will Jay Callahan, the cookie man, though both needed a bit more attention and slightly bigger roles in the story.

The plot and story flows well, neither breakneck, nor dragged out. The prose is a bit more spare than most cozies, but it works in favor of the character EJ.  Ms DiSilverio is herself a former USAF Intelligence Officer, so spare prose is likely natural.  Any cop, civilian or military, would be direct.  The mystery itself ended up being a good one with a clever solution.  It did lack some of the excitement and originality than Karen E Olsen’s Tattoo Shop mysteries have, but that was mostly balanced by greater realism.  What impressed me most was the way EJ’s injury and subsequent forced retirement was played.  No bitterness, no resentment, except for her own frail flesh, and a believable sadness and almost desperation to be a real cop again.  It was all there and felt more real for the low key way it was handled.  I am impressed with this first time author.   Overall, this is a cozy that’s more than worth the time and money.

Die Buying, despite its cutesie title, gets a solid B+ to A- (4.3*) from me and is recommended to those who like the Tattoo Shop mysteries.

 

 

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One Response to “Mystery Monday – Die Buying”

  1. Cynthia M. (clariail) , says:

    I read this book also and second everything that RF said. Have her next one on my WL as I type.

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