Monday, November 3, 2014

A Hardboiled Murder - Michelle Ann Hollstein

    2009; 208 pages.  New Author? : Yes.  Book #4 in the Aggie Underhill Mysteries series.  Genre : Murder-Mystery; Cozy.  Overall Rating : 5½*/10.

    Palm Springs, California is usually a quiet place, full of retirees playing golf, shopping, and going to book clubs.  So it was rather unusual to have two bizarre deaths – one in a hot tub and one on a tram car (literally) – within 24 hours.

    Fortunately, the police have determined that both deaths were accidental.  A coincidence.  But Aggie Underhill is not so sure.  So she plans to do a little investigating on her own.

    Another word for it might be “snooping”.  But Aggie’s instincts have been reliable in the past.

What’s To Like...
    There’s a cast of characters at the beginning, which came in handy for squaring away the various relationships of the recurring characters from the get-go.  This is a standalone novel, as well as Book 4 in the series, and I didn’t feel I was missing much by not having read any of the earlier books.  It is also a “cozy”, and I quite enjoy that sub-genre in Murder-Mysteries.  As such, there’s very little blood, no sex scenes, and only a smattering of mild cussing.

    A Hardboiled Murder is short, light read.  There’s a nice twist early on to get your attention.  Stylistically, it reminds me of the old Angela Lansbury television series, Murder, She Wrote.  The main character is a 53-year-old, widowed, well-off spinster, with the hots for one of the local police officers.  There’s no depth to any of the characters, but they’re all pleasant enough and quirky enough to be interesting.

    This isn’t really a whodunit.  Aggie pokes and prods, but frankly doesn’t discover much.  So if you try to solve the case alongside her, you will be frustrated by the lack of progress.  At the end, the revealing of the baddie seemed arbitrary to me, although in retrospect, there was one clue earlier that I should’ve picked up on.  In this regard, it reminded me of Silence of the Hams (reviewed here), which I read a long time ago, and was very unimpressed with.

    “I was stood up for an appointment,” Roger reminded her.  “That stung a bit.”
    “That’s hardly her fault.  She was dead.  Remember?” Betty reminded him while having an early dinner, late lunch, at a restaurant in the mall.
    “Oh, yeah.  I guess that’s excusable.  Still hurts though.  Rejection always does.  It’s not easy to get over being stood up.”
    “It’s not easy getting over being dead.”  (loc. 1788)

    “What’s wrong?  Is the garage a mess, too?”
    “That’s a ZR1!”
    “What are you talking about?”  Betty stuffed her hands on her hips.  “You’re not making sense.  ZR1?”
    “A Corvette,” Roger said, letting out a long breath before continuing.  “Aggie has a brand-spanking new Corvette in her garage.”
    “What?”  Betty turned and looked at Aggie.  “They ransacked your home and put a Corvette in the garage?”  (loc. 1969)

Kindle Details...
    A Hardboiled Murder sells for $3.99 at Amazon.  There are 7 more books in the Aggie Underhill series, if I counted correctly, and all of them are also $3.99.  Michelle Ann Holstein has books in two other series, as well as several “teach yourself to paint” books, and for the most part, they too are $3.99.

Why would God make snails that could live underwater, but not slugs?  (loc. 1348)
    If you’re happy just to plod along with Aggie, enjoying her quaint life and quirky friends, and slightly strange in-laws, you will probably enjoy A Hardboiled Murder.

    But as a Murder-Mystery, it has some serious weaknesses, especially with plotline inconsistencies.  The most egregious of these, noted even by the author herself, involves Aggie’s now-deceased husband somehow leaving a key clue in Palm Springs long before he died and she even contemplated relocating there from Florida.  Unless the author plans to introduce time-travel into the series (which seems unlikely) this is a glaring hole in the storyline which should’ve been resolved during the “polishing” stage.

    One of the murders seems pointlessly self-defeating for the baddie; while later, the “telling all” to Aggie seems needlessly self-incriminating.  Finally, the killer’s presence in Palm Springs prior to the arrival of victim Number Two again screams of either time-travel or sloppy storytelling.

    5½ Stars.  The pleasant hominess of Aggie’s life plus the occasional wit and humor balance out the plotline issues and the repetitive parts of the text.  But just barely.  Add 1 star if you think Murder, She Wrote was a fantastic series.

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