Thursday, February 18, 2016

Murder on a Silver Platter (A Red Carpet Catering Mystery #1)

Author:  Shawn Reilly Simmons
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Paperback; Ebook
ISBN #:  9781943390601; 9781943390571
Henery Press
236 Pages
$31.95; $15.95; $2.99 Amazon
February 23, 2016
Five Stars

Penelope Sutherland and her Red Carpet Catering company just got their big break as the on-set caterer for an upcoming blockbuster.  But when she discovers a dead body outside her house, Penelope finds herself in hot water.  Things start to boil over when serious accidents threaten the lives of the cast and crew.  And when the film's star, who happens to be Penelope's best friend, is poisoned, the entire production is nearly shut down.  Threats and accusations send Penelope out of the frying pan and into the fire as she struggles to keep her company afloat.  Before Penelope can dish up dessert, she must find the killer or she'll be the one served up on a silver platter.

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Penelope Sutherland is the personal chef and best friend of Arlena Madison.  Arlena is an up-and-coming actress who, up until this point, has always starred in B-movies, but is being given her first big break.  She and Arlena share a house in Glendale, New Jersey.  On this night, during what may turn out to be a blizzard, Arlena's dog Zazoo has escaped, running out into the snow.  Both women go out to search for him, in the hopes they can find him before he freezes to death.  After a short time Arlena heads back toward the house in the hopes he may be returning, and Penelope continues on.  Soon after, Penelope sees a motionless white furry object half-buried, and is afraid it might be the little dog.  Moving forward, she calls his name, and when he doesn't respond, she reaches for him and falls into the snow...but it's not Zazoo...it's a hat, and it belongs to the dead girl lying next to her.  

When Detective Joseph Baglioni arrives to investigate, Penelope recognizes him as an old friend from grade school.  However, with a dead body at the forefront, there's no time to reminisce about the past.  After determining neither of the women recognized the girl, the police leave them to try and get some sleep, and they figure this will be the end of them hearing about the death...but it is not to be.

Once they discover the identity of the dead girl, Holly Anderson, they discover that she has an amazing resemblance to Arlena, but neither woman knows her.  It also happens that Arlena's father, a famous actor, has had several wives (not to mention girlfriends) and children who live in different states.  While he readily supports all of them, he too maintains he's never heard of nor seen her before, nor does he recognize the name.  And when it is discovered the girl was murdered right outside Arlena's home, it soon becomes apparent that there is more to the death than meets the eye.

Then a series of circumstances arise:  Arlena's half-brother Max arrives, and finds out about the 'accidents' which have suddenly befallen Arlena, and alerts her father,  Randall Madison, who appears almost on the heels of Max.

What ensues is a captivating mystery surrounding the film industry.  We meet Penelope Sutherland, a strong, intelligent woman who is beginning to get her Red Carpet Catering company in full swing and doesn't shirk work to investigate a murder.  Her friend Arlena Madison is somewhat more fragile; being an actress who is trying to be taken seriously in a business not known for sensitivity, she shows us she has morals (she won't appear topless) and does her best to keep going regardless of what is occurring around her.  

For you romantics, there was a bit of a love triangle toward the middle of the book, but nothing that was unbelievable nor distracting to the story.  In fact, it only showed Penelope reasoning things out in her mind and making a decision that was right for her at the time.  I found Arlena's father Randall to be a hoot, he seemed like such a friendly and happy-go-lucky person who still took his responsibilities seriously, and he's someone I would like to know (on a platonic basis, of course - he does have a way with the ladies).

I also found it interesting that there was an intrigue afoot within the murder.  More than meets the eye, as it were.  Without giving too much away, I will venture to say this:  don't assume that all the questions lead up to one answer.  

Ms. Simmons has given us quite a good beginning to a new series; she manages to create characters that are both believable and likable, while weaving in small tidbits of movie-making and what is involved in catering food to a movie crew.  I look forward to reading the next in the series.  Highly recommended.     



More on Shawn Reilly Simmons:  http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/s/shawn-reilly-simmons/                                                                                        . 

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