Friday, November 14, 2014

Tagged for Death: A Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mystery

Author:  Sherry Harris
Genre:  Mystery

Three Stars
 
Starting your life over at age thirty-eight isn't easy, but that's what Sarah Winston finds herself facing when her husband CJ runs off with a 19-year-old temptress named Tiffany.  Sarah's self-prescribed therapy happily involves hitting all the garage and tag sales in and around her small town of Ellington, Massachusetts.  If only she could turn her love for bargain-hunting into a full-time career.
 
But after returning from a particularly successful day searching for yard sale treasures, Sarah finds a grisly surprise in one of her bags: a freshly bloodied shirt....that undoubtedly belongs to her ex, CJ, who now happens to be Ellington's chief of police.  If that's not bad enough, it seems Tiffany has gone missing.  Now it's up to Sarah to prove that her cold-hearted ex is not a cold-blooded killer.
 
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Let me tell you first that the blurb is misleading:  CJ did NOT run off with a 19-year-old.  He had a one-night stand with her, which is a completely different thing entirely.  Because of this, Sarah leaves him. However, she doesn't leave town, although she has no ties to the area and no job.  She (somehow) gets an apartment (without an income?) and carries on with her life as if nothing happened.  What I mean is that she continues to volunteer at the military base thrift store, mingling with everyone as if nothing at all occurred.  What's worse is the fact that EVERYONE takes her cheating husband's side! 
 
I absolutely did NOT like the beginning of this book.  Police officers pulling her over and giving her a ticket for going ONE MILE over the speed limit?  Really?  Since her husband was chief of police and it was his officers doing this, and later in the book she notes how her husband always knew what "his people" in the military were doing, so how can he not know his officers were doing this?  Why didn't he stop it?  You'd think if he wanted her back - which he appears to do - he would instruct his officers to be nice to her, not the opposite.  You'd also think they'd be smart enough on their own to be nice to her to encourage her to go back.  But do they?  Nope.  They make her feel like she's being hounded.  Yeah, that will send her back into his arms.
 
And the fact that she allows it to continue because of - what?  According to Sarah, all the cops and military people hate her because SHE LEFT HER HUSBAND FOR CHEATING ON HER.  So I guess in their minds, it's okay to cheat on your spouse.  Their wives must have fun while they're off working, not to mention all the military.  Those deployments must be a riot for both spouses.  What the officers do to her is tantamount to harassment, but she allows it to continue.  Is she a doormat?  A coward?  Also, most people (except for a couple of loyal friends) are also on the side of Tiffany - the woman who broke up her marriage.  So I guess in the military cheating is okay, but not for the wronged spouse. 
 
Also, someone is calling on a regular basis and shooting a gun off in the phone and she won't tell her ex about it.  She doesn't even ask to get her phone number changed.  Just tolerates it.  Again, really?  This book could have been so much better without all the vitriol against Sarah.  And she didn't help, being even more of a victim by taking it and not fighting back.  She's being stalked and harassed but that's okay, because they like CJ and Sarah deserved being cheated on, right?  Again, really? 
 
Then, when she finds the bloody shirts and gives them to CJ, she intends to prove he's innocent so goes about trying to solve the disappearance and possible murder herself.  Now, CJ is the chief of police, but he doesn't even bother to try and find out anything about Tiffany.  It appears as if it's all up to the ex-wife to prove him innocent.  There was nothing in the book to indicate he was doing any investigating on his own, so I can only come to that conclusion.
 
Also, it is implied that she can make a living organizing garage sales.  They must have an awful lot of them in Massachusetts and an awful lot of busy people who have no time to decide what their stuff is worth and let someone else decide for them (excuse me, but I'll decide what my things are worth, thank you very much.)  Apparently no one is able to bargain with people except Sarah.  Why are you having a garage sale if you can't bargain?  My sister has about two a year, tags her own stuff, and bargains just fine without help.  If you can't figure it out on your own, give it to charity.
 
Also, the reason her husband was set up for murder (and we know it was a set up all along, as it always is, so I'm not giving anything away) was insane.  You're angry at someone so you decide to send them to prison or possibly the death penalty?  Again, really? 
 
Three stars because the writing was fairly good, the descriptions of Massachusetts' surrounding areas great, and insights into military life (although my husband is ex-military, so I was already aware of it, but realize other readers wouldn't be) were interesting.  I didn't figure out the killer until just before Sarah did, so that was a big plus; there really weren't any clues leading up to it to tune us in, as it were.  I just couldn't get past all the nastiness of the secondary characters; and the fact that she was somehow able to get an apartment without any form of income, and where she was getting the disposable income to spend money at garage sales.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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