Saturday, July 08, 2006

Book Review--Now You See Her by Cecelia Tishy

I read this book during the 2 days I was in the cabin at Niobrara State Park. I would classify this mystery as a “cozy.” Cozies are mysteries that feature an amateur detective and usually are low on graphic violence. Think Miss Marple mysteries by Agatha Christie.

In this novel, Regina Cutter is in her early 40s and newly divorced from her rich, executive husband, who dumped her for a woman one year older than their 23-year-old daughter. She moves back to Boston, inheriting her Aunt Jo’s home, psychic ability, consultant job with the police, and joint custody of a beagle named Biscuit. She always had the psychic abilities, but she hadn’t used them until she was back in her aunt’s home.

Tishy, who also writes the Kate Banning mystery series, has created a pretty tight mystery with some interesting characters and a nice atmosphere of living in Boston. The character who brings the mystery to Reggie is Detective Frank Devaney, who used to consult with Aunt Jo. He brings something for her to hold, hoping for some kind of psychic vision to help him with his case. This time, it’s a case that has already been solved, or so he thought back in the 70s. But now he’s wondering if they put the wrong man in jail. But Reggie’s gift isn’t something she can do “on call.” She has to rely on old-fashioned leg work if she wants to solve this mystery.

She has some help along the way. Stark is a Harley-riding friend of her aunt’s and with whom she shares custody of Biscuit. While Stark wants Biscuit to be a brave hunting dog, Reggie wants her a cuddly household pet. There’s a nice banter between these characters and you know that for all her protests, Reggie is glad to have Stark in her life. You will also be expecting her to be riding her own Harley by the next installment.

Nicole is Reggie’s boss and the owner of StyleSmart, a used-clothing store for women coming off welfare who need clothes to go to work. Knowing more about the not-so-desirable areas of Boston, she’s a good source of information, not to mention a means to an end in one of the many twists that the plot takes.

Oh, and there’s the Arnots, whose expensive new home has a history of quick homeowner turnover and the reason may be a ghost. Reggie has agreed to check it out for her realtor friend, Meg. But there’s more than a simple haunting going on at this home.

So, here are some opinions about this book. This is an old-fashioned book review—I’m going to actually give you an opinion, not just a story synopsis.

Tishy has created a pretty tight and fairly predictable mystery. Predictable is not a criticism—predictability is fine as long as the story is interesting enough to carry the reader through to the end. This story does that. She does a good job of all the clues culminating into a final confrontation. There are no surprises, no clues that she unfairly sneaks in, and the result is logical, even though at times it seems that she has stretched her “red herrings” a little thin. Although they come together in the end, they seem a little excessive in the middle where I got a little bogged down.

The real problem of this book for me is that it is written in first person. This is a difficult point of view to pull off because you have to decide very quickly if the narrator is believable. Because this is a mystery with the main character as detective, you have to trust her interpretation of what she sees and hears, or at least understand how she could misunderstand something. Also, it helps if you like the main character, and that’s where I have a problem. I’m not sure I like Reggie enough to really root for her. She laments constantly about her former privileged life, and although she is honest that she is having to face her racist tendencies, it’s uncomfortable when every person she meets is usually described by the color of his or her skin first.

Also, she takes some risks that are really fantastic. Now, it is fiction, so that’s ok, but I got a little irritated with her that she refused to talk to her cop friend any more about her findings and suspicions because she didn’t think he’d listen to her. So, I have a problem with introducing this cop to ask for help, then his talking down to her like she shouldn’t be doing anything to help. The intention, I think, is to allude to his stand-offish attitude as being some hidden agenda on his part. But I don’t think this is the character to do this with.

And just one little thing, she talks as if there is another book before this one, but I can’t find it. And everything I’ve seen, says that this is the first in the series. So, how did she get these bruises and sore arm from her first outing helping the police? It’s a mystery!

So, bottom line is that I liked it well enough that I didn’t put the book down. I was interested enough in it to keep reading, mainly to see if my guess of the bad guys was right. I’m not sure I’ll pick up the next in the series, though.


saz said...

There are so many interesting points about this book but then I got to the part where she identifies everyone by the color of their skin - turned me off too. Here's the big question....if you had another mystery book with you on this trip would you have switched books midway and left it unfinished?

Kell said...

Hey Saz--I might have. That's a good question. I've started another mystery, British this time, called Death's Autograph by Marianne MacDonald and it's already much better than the Tishy novel and I'm only about 10 pages in. So, if I had brought that one, yes, I probably would have switched.

saz said...

Kell - Here's a blogging question for you......have you noticed a big uptick in your profile "views" lately? I think I saw a big change in both yours and Betty's numbers. I always glance at this number when I link to a blog - wonder if anyone else pays attention to it?

Kell said...

Saz--You know, I really don't look at those numbers. I've decided it makes me nervous to think people are actually looking at or (heaven!) reading it. Waaaaaayyyy to much responsibility there to be at least quasi-entertaining! But now I'm curious and have to go look!