Thursday, October 20, 2011

Review: The Bad Always Die Twice by Cheryl Crane

In the first of a wildly entertaining mystery series set amid the bright lights, big egos, and Botoxed brows of Hollywood, Cheryl Crane—daughter of legendary movie star Lana Turner—introduces a smart, hilarious, and utterly loveable heroine in realtor-turned-amateur sleuth, Nikki Harper.

For Nikki Harper, realtor to the stars and daughter of 1950s screen goddess Victoria Bordeaux, Hollywood is home. A completely dysfunctional home populated by a cast of crazies, true, but home nonetheless. While Nikki's no stranger to scandal, she's shocked to receive a hysterical phone call from her business partner, Jessica Martin, saying that TV has-been Rex March has been found dead in Jessica's bed.

More shocking than Rex's death is the fact that, as far as anyone knew, Rex was already dead. Six months ago, the star of the seventies sitcom Shipwrecked Vacation was supposedly killed when his plane crashed in the Mojave Desert. Nikki and Jessica recently sold his mansion on behalf of his widow, Edith. It's obvious to Nikki that Jessica is being framed, but by whom? And why? And how on earth can Rex be dead a second time?

In search of answers, Nikki turns to the one person she can always count on. From her pink boudoir in her Beverly Hills mansion, the ever-glamorous Victoria suggests Nikki focus her sleuthing on Rex's not-so-grieving widow. And there's a veritable casting couch full of other candidates, including Edith's boy-toy lover, Rex's scheming lawyer (like there's any other kind), and the diner waitress with whom Rex was having one of his numerous affairs. But with the killer readying for a repeat performance, Nikki will have to act fast—before her own screen fades to black. . .

As a person formerly addicted to Hollywood gossip blogs, I really liked the nudge-nudge-wink-wink effect of The Bad Always Die Twice.  The scene was set; the players were all in place; the posh addresses referenced therein.  Once the narrative began, I was surprised by how much I wanted Nikki to find the real murderer.  Add in her mother, Victoria Bordeaux, a name and face whom everyone in Hollywood knows, and Nikki is able to use her minor celebrity status to play amateur sleuth.  The twists and turns lead to more uncertainity about who had actually killed Rex March, and once the murderer was revealed, I was surprised I hadn't guessed it. 

The Bad Always Die Twice was a great mystery featuring a charmingly fun novice gumshoe in Nikki Harper.  I can only hope the subsequent books in this series are as good as this one. 

(A very special thank you to Kensington Books who provided me with an ARC of The Bad Always Die Twice.)

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