As you can probably tell, this is NOT Ronnie Virdi’s “Grave Beginnings”. With the craziness of the holidays and the news that the author is considering revising it again, I’ve decided to shelve that one for now. Feel free to get a jump start on me with it – I love the main character and Virdi knocks the action scenes out of the park 😀 Now back to “Misfortune Cookies.”
A disappointing read for a scenario that had so much potential.
HOW I FOUND THIS BOOK:
The third or fourth book in this series was advertised on a free eBook website. I was intrigued enough by the blurb for that one and the premise of the series (cozy mysteries, set in Texas, with a crime-solving duo of “fat ladies” and a food theme) that I decided to buy the first book even though it wasn’t free.
People looking for a book more about reaffirming the rightness of their Christian faith than about anything else. It is a very quick, inexpensive read, and not very mentally taxing, so it’s also great for people who just want to try something different. Or you might want to skip to the second book and see if the series hit its stride.
MY AMAZON REVIEW:
I have a background in forensics, have worked (twice, but it counts!!) with law enforcement, and am an avid mystery reader. This means I hold mysteries/crime procedurals to higher standards than other books.
AS A READER:
The premise of the book promised to be amusing and interesting – a woman gets a fortune cookie at a local Chinese Restaurant informing her that her father was murdered. She and a friend tackle the mystery behind her father’s death and the fortune cookie, with various adventures along the way. Unfortunately for me, the book was marred by several things:
1) The mystery was reduced to the level of a subplot by the importance instead placed on finding the two main characters husbands.
2) Lovita, the protagonist and view-point character (this being first person), came across as weak, petty and hollow. The other main character – Sue Jan – came across as brash, selfish, shallow and also petty. Although my age (… think mid… ok, late 30’s), they were keeping arguments going from High School. And other than living together and running a business together, they had done NOTHING ELSE with their lives since then. They both seemed to blame the lack on not having a guy/family *gag*. I actually wanted to like Sue Jan because she was at least funny, confident and had a personality, but the constant bickering about food and men in the weirdest times and then instantly patching it up was less “running argument” and more “you both need to grow up.”
3) Part of the interest to me in the blurb was that the characters were “fat ladies” – both overweight or obese (it’s not really specified), solving crimes with a food-theme. It sounded amusing. And if they had been body-secure characters with a love of food then it could have been. Instead, the fact that they were “fat” was ground into the narrative again and AGAIN. They scolded each other for how much they ate, for how much they weighed, and argued about who was fattest. They CRIED about how fat they were, how out-of-control their eating was, how other people (men) must see them. Other characters constantly judged how much they ate, and they were called “pigs” and “disgusting” (those were the bad guys, but still).
I was really hoping for big gals who kicked hiney at solving crimes. What I got were big gals who spent the entire book eating because if they went longer than 5 minutes without food they were STARVING. And hid in closets and ate entire pies, because they were so out-of-control. As a big gal with an appreciation for good food, I can say BULLPUCKY.
**I realize that with Sue-Jan, the point that was probably trying to be made is that she was the living embodiment of the sin of Gluttony. And that in the next book that character flaw might have been resolved because she’s now a practicing Christian. Not curious enough to find out, but if you’ve read these or do read them, drop me a line and tell me how it went.**
It wasn’t just the female characters who were judged on their weight – the male characters were judged on their “hotness”, with the main male character, Monroe, undergoing a make-over to become appealing to Sue Jan. By the end of the book he had even lost weight, making him officially “hot”. Lovita’s love interest is delivered from the heavens (more on that later), and catches her eye with how attractive he is. By the end of the book she still barely knows him, and as readers we know even less. And yet we’re still supposed to boo the main bad guy when it’s revealed how shallow he is about Sue Jan’s appearance…..
4) I did not realize when I bought this that it was a “Christian” Cozy Mystery. If the characters had just been church goers, fighting the good fight while they took down a crime ring, then it wouldn’t have made any difference to my enjoyment. I have enjoyed mysteries with vicars, monks and just your average run-of-the-mill Christian MC. But this was a book with a missionary mentality – it featured the conversion of several of the characters during the story (without actually giving the specifics of what inspired them to convert), and EVERY “good” character during the course of the book was revealed not only to be Christian, but devout and prone to giving little sermons. As these interludes got longer, I resorted to skimming.
AS A WRITER:
OK, and to continue on, the biggest reason I did not like this book: it was literally Deux ex Machina. Instead of doing anything, at every little road-bump the main character would PRAY for something to happen… and it did. On Saturday she prayed for a hot Christian guy to find her attractive, and on Sunday morning – at Church no less – he was delivered much as a fatted calf. Or perhaps as John the Baptist was delivered to Salome. Either way he seemed to have been poleaxed and had little say in the matter. That might have been amusing if the entire mystery **SUBPLOT** hadn’t relied on strategic praying instead of the MC actually doing anything. In the Orthodoxy of the Written Word, such lazy storytelling could be considered a cardinal sin.
Instead of actively pursuing who killed her Daddy, the MC cried, prayed, appealed to authorities, collected clues and failed to make heads or tails of them, prayed some more and had more clues delivered to her. The last major clue was mysteriously (some might say miraculously *eye roll*) dropped by the very person trying to secret it away. [spoiler]AND LOVITA STILL COULDN’T DECIPHER IT, SO SHE TURNED IT OVER TO A MARSHALL *twitches*[/spoiler]
This book attempted to be a mystery, without actually any real investment in solving the mystery (and let me reiterate… this is her FATHER’S DEATH we’re talking about here!!!) and without a protagonist who was in any way suited to solving crimes. It attempted to be a romance without any chemistry between any of the characters and a very clichéd attempt on the part of one character to play matchmaker. It tried to spread Christian messages and values, and even that was muddled. Um…. But the grammar was spot-on, it was well proof-read, and I didn’t notice any technical mistakes. The author is a decent writer, just not telling the kind of story that makes me want to read any more in this series.
This book can be found on Amazon, along with others in the series. It does feature interesting recipes for Kung Pao Chicken and Buttermilk Fried Chicken at the back that I’m going to try to adapt to my family’s dietary restrictions and try out.
Next up is Phil and Kaja Folio’s “Agatha H. and the Voice of the Castle” – the 485 page behemoth novel adaptation of volumes 7-12 (I think…. ) of their Girl Genius comics. I might have to stop reading it in the bathroom – my laughter sounds ominous with all the echoes and resonance…..