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Bibliophile reviews A Really Cute Corpse

Author: Joan Hess
Series detective: Claire Malloy
No. in series: 4
Year of publication: 1988
Type of mystery: Murder
Type of investigator: Amateur
Setting & time: Arkansas, USA, 1980’s
Number of corpses: 2
Some themes: Beauty pageants, politics (and politicians), the American Dream

Story: When Claire Malloy’s friend is hurt while showing a bunch of beauty pageant contestants their moves, she ropes Claire into helping her to get the pageant going. Someone seems to be trying to injure and/or scare the reigning Miss Thurberfest, who is in town to crown her successor. Some suspect the girl is just trying to attract attention, but when she is found dead in her dressing room no-one is sure what is going on any more. A local politician and his assistant may be involved and the owner of the theatre where the pageant is to take place has been behaving suspiciously. But Claire’s biggest worry is that her friend seems to be harbouring a secret she is unwilling to share.

Review: I first became acquainted with Joan Hess’ writings when I picked up a copy of one of her Arly Hanks mysteries, Misery Loves Maggody. Having lived in a small town for half my life, I was able to appreciate her very funny descriptions of small town people and small town thinking and even found one or two people I could have sworn came from the town I grew up in. This is my first Claire Malloy mystery, and while it didn’t quite have the depth of the previous book I read by the author (which handled a very disturbing subject, much more disturbing than murder, in a way that really made one think about it), I found it just as entertaining. Claire is a person I quite like, even if she does, out of pure contrariness, have a couple of TSTL moments, but, as we mystery readers know, sometimes a mystery just wouldn’t be as good without the protagonist doing something stupid. At least she admits to having qualms before plunging in. Hess doesn’t hesitate to allow her protagonist to be ridiculous at times, which is quite endearing. There are few things in mysteries I hate as much as perfect protagonists, and Claire certainly has her flaws.

I love the way Hess draws a convincing parallel between the training and grooming of beauty queens and politicians. When one thinks about it, they are really in the same trade: that of making others like them enough to vote for them, and the way she draws the parallels, there really is not that much difference between the ways they are trained. I am now reading another Hess book (a Maggody tale) and have another Mrs. Malloy book on my night table, ready to be read once I finish the other one. I may write an author review based on those books.

Rating: An entertaining mystery to while away an afternoon with. 3 + stars.


Lee said…
Actually, I'd really like to ask how you manage the flash on Blogger!
Bibliophile said…
Do you mean the blinking text? I use the [blink][/blink] tag.

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