THE CURSE OF THE HOLY PAIL by Sue Ann Jaffarian: After 40 years of marriage its obvious sweet wife and I are somewhat compatible, although our reading tastes do differ. On this one, however, we both agree. A funny read, with off the wall characters, a twisty plot and not a surplus calorie to be had. Every succeeding owner of the vintage Happy Wheeler lunchbox has died and now wealthy Sterling Price (what a name for a wealthy client) has joined the list of late owners. Plus-size, middle-aged paralegal Odelia Grey goes looking for the lunch box which is worth a bunch of money and for the killer. There are plenty of suspects -- Sterling's loyal secretary, his discarded fiancée, his money-grubbing relatives, fellow collectors, and overzealous environmentalists. In the middle of the chase Odelia also has to deal with a surprise marriage proposal and the continuing challenge of an ill-fitting bra. The book is best summed up by its obligatory recipe: Odelias Favorite Cookie Recipe..1. Go to market when uniformed girls are outside. 2. Buy 12 boxes of thin mint Girl Scout Cookies. 3. Place in freezer. 4. The following year, repeat steps 1 3. Recommended.
Book 2 of a series. This character is smart, and respected by others. That is important to me. She is short, 5'1", and a size 20, and she seems to like herself just fine. The author wrote a good mystery with some very memorable suspects, and a great story line. You wont want to miss this mystery.
Sue Ann Jaffarian's Odelia Grey is the type of sleuth that gives most of us ordinary women hope. She's breathing down the neck of fifty, and she definitely has more curves than the airbrushed ideals to whom we're supposed to aspire. But guess what? Age and size don't matter. Odelia has a wonderful romantic relationship, and she's the best paralegal in Newport Beach, California. That she also has a bit of the smart aleck in her doesn't hurt either. When trying to assure someone that she isn't going to investigate Price's death, she refers to what happened to her in the first book (Too Big to Miss): "Don't worry about that. I left my amateur sleuthing behind when I got shot. I've only got one good butt cheek left."
But Jaffarian isn't just about humor (although you've got to read her response to readers who insisted she share her favorite cookie recipe as other authors have done in their books. What a hoot!)-- she also writes some first-rate descriptions, such as "With her gray hair and dull, conservative suit, she reminded me of an old armchair discarded by the side of the road." How can such a simple image make me feel so sad?
Characters, humor, description... and the mystery is a good one, too. There are so many suspects and motives floating around that it takes a while to sort through them all. Along the way we learn about lunchbox collecting, the early days of television, and some of the inner workings of Hollywood studios-- all interesting stuff.
I do have to admit that Jaffarian tapdanced all around two of the things I don't like to find when I'm reading crime fiction. Odelia doesn't always give the police information and evidence as soon as she stumbles across it, although-- thank heaven-- she doesn't wait very long. Odelia is also saved from a TSTL (Too Stupid To Live) moment by the addition of a jaw-dropping sidekick. I have the feeling that Jaffarian was winking at me when she wrote those scenes.
What's my reaction? I'm going to wink right back because the next book in the series, Thugs and Kisses, is on its way to me right now. Jaffarian's sense of humor, her storytelling, and her Odelia Grey are winners!