Monday, July 18, 2016

Murder on a Designer Diet (A Red Carpet Catering Mystery Book 3)

Author:  Shawn Reilly Simmons
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover, Paperback, Ebook
ISBN #:  9781635110364; 9781635110333
Henery Press
216 Pages
$31.95; $15.95; $4.99
June 7, 2016

Five Stars

Penelope's life revolves around cooking and keeping her Red Carpet Catering business afloat, and she's just landed a hearty new job for her and her staff.  Just when Penelope thinks life couldn't be sweeter, a panicked late-night phone call from Max, her best friend's brother, ends abruptly with shots fired on his end.  The next morning, a handsome model and club promoter turns up dead, and when the police serve up Max as their main suspect, Penelope risks it all to prove his innocence (and find him before the police do).  With her relationship as sturdy as a soup sandwich and her own life being threatened, it's up to Penelope to find the truth before anyone else is eighty-sixed.


Penelope Sutherland is a caterer for the film industry, and at present is in New York City because her friend Sienna Wentworth has a fashion line premiering.  After attending the show, her detective boyfriend Joey Taglioni has a surprise for her - he's booked a room at the Tribeca Loft hotel, and has plans for them to spend a few days sightseeing.  But early the next morning around three Penelope receives an unsettling telephone call which from her friend Max which leaves her reeling.  Max is the brother of Penelope's best friend and housemate, actress Arlena Madison.  He is a celebrity in his own right, being on a reality television series, but surprised them the evening before as one of the models in Siena's fashion show. 

When the phone call is abruptly terminated, Penelope calls back only to have Max ask for help and tell her someone has been shot.  After the phone goes dead a second time, Joey and Penelope go to investigate, and while they don't find Max, they do find a dead body, which turns out to be another of the runway models from Siena's show.

When the police arrive, they handcuff both Penelope and Joey until things can be sorted out, which doesn't go over well with Joey.  After this incident, it causes a rift between them, and he too disappears, leaving Penelope alone in New York City - or at least until Arlena and her father can arrive to help find Max and clear his name.

But there are more problems afoot:  the killer knows who Penelope is, isn't happy about her asking questions, and seems determined to let Max take the fall.  While the police think Max's motive for murder was jealousy, this only makes Penelope more resolved to find the truth, and it has her digging deeper into the model's death and who would want him dead.  When all the clues start pointing to a very different reason for the murder, Penelope realizes that it had nothing to do with jealousy and everything to do with keeping secrets hidden forever...

This is the third book in the Red Carpet Catering Mysteries, following Murder on a Silver Platter and Murder on the Half Shell.  While I hesitate to give away any more of the plot than stated above in order not to spoil it for others, I will tell you that it can be read as a stand alone, and it also has less to do with Penelope's catering and is more is focused on the mystery.  That being said, I found it just as enjoyable as the first two books, and as much a pleasure to read.

The author has created characters that have a life of their own; they are not merely words on a page, with no inspiration.  They are well-defined, believable and have personality.  She has that rare quality of  imagining the person she wants to see and the ability to put it into words.  The result is a delightful ensemble of people who care about each other and are willing to go to great lengths due to their loyalty, affection, and belief in one another.

Ms. Simmons has given us a book imbued with a great mystery, a little romance, and enough suspense to keep us wanting more.  There is no doubt her skills as a writer are once again proven in this latest mystery and I look forward to the next one in the series.  Highly recommended.

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