Dressed Up 4 Murder
Sophie Kimball Mystery
By J.C. Eaton
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
Last one standing is the winner . . .
The holiday season has arrived and bookkeeper/amateur sleuth, Sophie “Phee” Kimball, would love nothing more than to enjoy the comforts of her new home with her detective boyfriend near Arizona’s Sun City West. Instead, her mother Harriet wants to showcase her chiweenie-chihuahua-dachshund Streetman in the Precious Pooches Holiday Extravaganza costume events. The festivities begin in October and end on St. Patrick’s Day—with the winner starring in the St. Pat’s Day parade. But things quickly turn an awful shade of green when Streetman uncovers a dead body under a tarp-covered grill in the neighbor’s yard.
The victim is Cameron Tully, a seafood distributor working out of Phoenix, who died from ingesting a toxic sago palm leaf. Before the police can even find a motive and suspect, another Precious Pooch owner nearly dies from the same poison. With Harriet believing someone’s targeting her and Streetman because of the costume contests, Phee will need a potful of Irish luck to sniff out a killer . . . (From Goodreads)
This complex, hilarious cozy mystery is a great read! I have enjoyed this series from the beginning, and each one is better than the previous. The setting in the senior-living community of Sun City West, Arizona, is familiar to me and represents the SW desert well. While most of the seniors I’ve met are a bit less…over-the-top than the ones in the Booked 4 Murder book club, the characters simply make this novel what it is. They are lovable even if a bit eccentric. The mystery has many strands reaching throughout the Greater Phoenix area and is nearly impossible to solve.
It is almost Halloween, and Sun City West is beginning a Precious Pooches Holiday Extravaganza. It is a series of three parades of pampered pets. The pups will wear custom-made costumes for each of the upcoming holidays, the first one for Halloween, then one for Thanksgiving, with the final one for Hanukkah/ Christmas. Whoever accumulates the most winning points from the three will win a special spa vacation, and Harriet Plunkett is going to any lengths to win. Streetman, her Chiweenie, is like a second child to Harriet, and nothing is too good for the boy.
Phee is Harriet’s daughter who came to Arizona a couple years ago when the Booked 4 Murder group stumbled over their first real-life murder. She was offered a job by Nate, of Williams Investigations, who had been a detective in the Mankato MN police department where she was an accountant. Since then, Marshall, another detective from Mankato, has moved to work for Nate. Marshall and Phee since learned how each had a crush on the other for years, began dating, and are now moving in together.
Phee was at Harriet’s to see one of Streetman’s costumes when he had to go outside. Since the day before, the pup had been sniffing around the tarp on the neighbors’ outdoor grill. Again, he raced to the tarp and tries to tug it off. Streetman has gained a nose for adventure, as under the tarp is a body. As in, a dead man who clearly is not a resident of Sun City West, as he is well under 55 years old.
Harriet is beside herself, especially when seeing who the deputies/ detectives on the case are. She wants Williams Investigations involved, patrols stepped up, because after all, a killer was just outside her back patio! The Sheriff’s department does call in Williams as a consultant, especially when they learn the unusual cause of death. And when another woman walking her dog through the costume parade, Elaine, is taken seriously ill, resulting from the same thing that killed Cameron, things get really weird.
The good news is that Streetman won 2nd place in the Halloween-costume contest, thanks to the talented designing and needle-wielding skills of Harriet’s friend, Shirley. The first-place winner, Phyllis Gruber with her pedigreed pooch has a potential for causing problems, especially when Streetman takes first prize in the Thanksgiving-themed contest. She issues a threat to Phee regarding her mother and Streetman. Seriously? The woman who thankfully hadn’t died from the unusual poisoning thought Mrs. Gruber to be the cause of it.
There seems to be no connection between Cameron or Elaine, but the detectives and PI’s find several connections around the Phoenix area. Seafood, high-end restaurants and natural dog food, even a couple affairs and a naked runner in Sun City West on Halloween bring challenges and laughter.
The characters are very well-defined, especially Phee, Marshall, and Harriet. I like Phee in many ways as well as Harriet, even though Harriet is best in small doses. Phee is great at gathering information and putting it together into theories of possible motives. She and Marshall compliment each other, working well together. Marshall is a saint to be as kind and accommodating to Harriet and her friends so well!
Enough backstory is included so this can be read as a standalone, but once you read one, you will want to read the rest! Plot twists and turns kept me on my toes! One thing I appreciated was how the mystery wasn’t solved in a day or two but over a period of weeks. Just when I thought I figured out one thing, something else came up to change my mind. Of all the various pieces, I figured out only one part of it. The end is very satisfactory, especially the December costume parade, with no loose ends outstanding. I highly recommend it!