Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Murder at the Academy Awards by Joan Rivers and Jerrilyn Farmer

Few books and even fewer mysteries have me laughing out loud and Murder at the Academy Awards is one of those few. Of course, very few women are accomplished comediennes like Joan Rivers. With her comedic timing, it was easy to tell where Rivers’ snarky and acerbic wit ended and Farmer’s more serious tomes took over.

Rivers’ protagonist Maxine Taylor is a thinly disguised version of herself, hosting a Red Carpet review prior to the start of the Academy Awards with her daughter Drew. As fashionistas, they comment on what everyone is wearing and who they’re wearing. Sound familiar?

In Murder at the Academy Awards, Drew gets a text message from her dearest and closest friend Halsey Hamilton, the nineteen year-old Best Actress nominee who is currently in rehab. Apparently, Halsey is showing up at the Oscars and she’s granted an exclusive interview to Max and Drew. When her limo pulls up, Max’s wrangler Cindy has to help the young actress out of the vehicle. Halsey, clad in only a strapless bra and skimpy panties collapses on the red carpet. She manages to whisper a few words to Max before she dies.

Suddenly, Max is the hottest ticket in town. Everyone wants to know why Halsey, well on her way to recovery from muscle relaxers, would relapse and start using again. Max is convinced Drew’s ex-boyfriend Burke who had been dating Halsey, is involved. Drew understandably is certain he isn’t and begs her mother to clear him of suspicion. Although Max would prefer to do the opposite, she agrees hoping that Drew will see Burke for the low-life she thinks he is.

Max goes so far as to check herself into the rehab clinic where Halsey had been recuperating. It isn’t until she has to break out of rehab and attend Halsey’s funeral that the pieces come together.

They mystery itself is rather ho-hum and it’s Joan Rivers and her sarcastic sense of humor that elevates the story, making it an enjoyable and funny read. Unfortunately, it is necessary to keep the story alive as well, since there are some confusing aspects. Why introduce a character for only his cell phone, then have him disappear for most of the novel? Why have a limo driver usher in important clues and then have him vanish for the rest of the novel?

Certainly, it’s Joan who makes this novel, so it’s a work that even mystery non-lovers will enjoy.

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