Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Make, Take, Murder by Joanna Campbell Slan
Author: Joanna Campbell Slan
Publisher: Midnight Ink, 2011
Paperback, 348 pages
Genre: Cozy, Amateur Sleuth, #4 Kiki Lowenstein Scrap-N-Craft mystery
Source: the author
First Line: I was rummaging around in the trash Dumpster searching for my lost paycheck, when I reached down and grabbed Cindy Gambrowski's severed leg.
Finding a severed leg in the Dumpster would be a memorable beginning to anyone's day, and it certainly was to Kiki Lowenstein. The discovery begins a search for Cindy Gambrowski, and while the police are looking, Kiki has to keep on truckin' with her almost teenaged daughter who's an angel one second and a demon the next, with her mother-in-law (who always seems to be the latter), and with her prickly co-owner of their scrapbooking store Time in a Bottle. To put the icing on the cake, it's December in St. Louis, Missouri, and anyone in retail can tell you that the sales figures for this month can make or break a business. But Cindy Gambrowski was a customer, and Kiki can't get her out of her mind-- even when co-owner Bama goes ballistic when the shop is featured on the television news. Kiki searches for clues as best she can during the busiest season of all.
The scrapbooking and retail aspects of this book are very well done. By the time I was finished with the last page, I had an itch to take up scrapbooking-- a craft I'd never had any interest in before. Slan shares ideas and tips that are guaranteed to get any crafter anxious to start a new project. Trying to walk that fine line of supply and demand, a shoplifter who's stealing some of their best items, having enough help in the shop to serve all the customers-- the author made this retail veteran feel right at home.
There were some characters who got on my nerves a time or two. Kiki has a mother-in-law who goes out of her way to be hateful to her. I've said in other reviews that I can do without the obnoxious mother-in-law, and my opinion hasn't changed. Bama, the co-owner of Time in a Bottle, is abrasive to the point of being outrageous. Although the reason for Bama being the way she is is given at book's end, I still wondered why everyone let her get away with her behavior.
Kiki seemed to me to be the type of woman who wants to be liked by everyone... a woman who wants to get along with no fighting and harsh words. Unfortunately, she's not surrounding herself with the right people for her wishes to be a reality. The only time I really disagreed with something she did, however, was when a man walked up to her and her co-workers at 11 PM and asked about a mutual acquaintance because he had flowers to deliver. Come on, Kiki-- what flower shop would spend the payroll to make deliveries at that hour of night?
The search for Cindy Gambrowski is a puzzling one, and although subtle clues are given all along the way, the ending is still a shocker. This isn't your typical cozy mystery. There's more meat on the bone. Yes, the characters are front and center as they should be, and yes, you get a feel for the craft aspect of the book. You also see how difficult it is for a single mother with limited funds to raise a child. But there are even deeper issues-- such as spousal abuse-- that Slan deals with in such a way to make us all stop and think... and wonder what we would do in the same situation.
Did it feel strange for me to begin reading a series with book four? No, the author does a good job of providing enough backstory for things to make sense without bogging down the plot. I enjoyed being in Kiki's world for a while and look forward to meeting her again.