Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Portrait of Doreene Gray by Esri Allbritten

First Line: Outside the darkened windows of Doreene Gray's second floor bedroom, a squall buffeted the house and whistled across the gingerbread trimming.

After dealing with the Chihuahua of the Baskervilles, the next stop on the Tripping Magazine staff's itinerary is Port Townsend, Washington. Their low-budget travel magazine is geared for believers in the paranormal, and they've gotten word that Doreene Gray is about to put her famous portrait on the auction block. What's paranormal about a portrait? It seems that Doreene, who's in her fifties, doesn't look a day over twenty-five, while the portrait of her that was painted by her twin sister, Maureene, looks a bit... weathered. Shades of Oscar Wilde? That's exactly what the Tripping staff wants to find out.

After inveigling their way into the Victorian mansion, they manage to impress the difficult woman and her Brazilian toy boy enough for Doreene to ask them to look into the strange things that have been happening. What's up with the strange slips of paper appearing in the soup, and why is some guy spending a lot of time sitting in a white Impala outside the house? Is Doreene's past catching up with her?

Although the two books in this series are called Chihuahua mysteries, the little dogs aren't the investigators, and neither are they paranormal elements. (You have to admit that the book cover for Doreene Gray gives the impression that the dog is deceased when all that's really happened is that the little guy got into some trouble and is trying to look angelic.) The resident Chihuahua in this book is Gigi, whose human is Doreene Gray herself. Suki the Tripping photographer finds herself involved with Gigi throughout the course of the book.

I have to admit that as soon as I found out that the setting of the book was Port Townsend, Washington, I was sold. I love that old Victorian town, and Allbritten takes us through its streets and even out to Fort Worden and Point Wilson Lighthouse. With just enough allusions to Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray to keep me guessing, the plot was fast-paced and fun.

Speaking of fun, I love the staff of Tripping! Michael Abernathy (main writer), Angus MacGregor (editor and cofounder) and Suki Oota (photographer) have all the sarcasm, skill and subterfuge born of familiarity with each other's working styles, although Suki is still able to surprise the two men on a regular basis. Just listening to them banter back and forth is worth the price of admission.

If you're looking for something light and funny, pick up a Chihuahua mystery and let the staff of Tripping take you on a search for the paranormal. You may not find any otherworldly elements, but you're going to have a blast while you're looking!

The Portrait of Doreene Gray by Esri Allbritten
ISBN: 9780312569167
Minotaur Books  ©2012
Hardcover, 320 pages

Cozy, Humorous Mystery; #2 Chihuahua mystery
Rating: B+
Source: Prize from the Poisoned Pen Conference


  1. Cathy - I just love the name of the magazine! It's great! And it does sound like a light funny read. I'm not much of a one for the paranormal in novels unless it's done very, very, very well but it sounds like the solution to this mystery is a lot more prosaic.

    1. Actually there was very little of the paranormal in this book, Margot, so you would be able to read it with impunity. ;-)

  2. I love it! Sounds like a fun read too.

  3. Two thumbs up for your use of "inveigling." What a pleasure to read such a well-written review.

    1. Thank you, although I did have to doublecheck the spelling. That word just seemed to fit those three perfectly. :-)


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