Friday, March 9, 2018

Death of a Coupon Clipper (A Hayley Powell Food and Cocktails Mystery #3)

Author:  Lee Hollis
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperbook; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9780758267399
Kensington Publishing
416 Pages
$7.99; $5.99 Amazon
July 2, 2013

Hayley Powell, food and cocktails columnist for Bar Harbor's Island Times, is...well, kind of broke.  So when she's selected for that extreme coupon-clipping reality game show coming to town...

...she's thrilled, especially when her competition is nasty nurse Candace Culpepper.  But when Hayley stumbles across a face-down-in-the-snow Candace - scissors gleaming between her shoulders - she knows the next thing she'll be selected for will probably be a police line-up.

Meanwhile, though Hayley's BFF Mona was only joking about "taking Candace out," Bruce Linney, the Island Times crime reporter, definitely isn't laughing.  And what about the smarmy, cold-hearted host of the show, Drew Nickerson, who may have been having a steamy affair with the intentionally-iced nurse?  Hayley needs to cut to the chase and find the killer.  Everything may hinge on a stray coupon, but Hayley better keep her eyes on the real grand prixe: staying out of permanent cold storage!


PLEASE NOTE:  This review contains spoilers - a lot:

Hayley Powell writes a food and drink column for a local newspaper in Bar Harbor, Maine.  It's winter, and her two children are visiting their father in Iowa for winter break.  When she returns home from work one day, her garage roof collapses, crushing her car, and she also discovers that she has no heat due to her furnace breaking.

Up in arms over what to do, she packs up her dog Leroy and goes to stay with her brother Randy, who owns a bar.  Randy's significant other, police chief Sergio, is visiting his family in South America, so he has plenty of room.  But finding out she can't get a loan from him - cash poor - she turns to her mother, who also says no.

Just when she thinks there's no where else to go, she discovers that an extreme coupon show is coming to town and she sends them her sob story, hoping she'll be chosen - which will solve her money problems (for now, anyway).  But then she discovers that the other person who might be chosen is Candace Culpepper, an old schoolmate who's as nasty as they come, and doesn't like Hayley.

She also finds out that her boyfriend Lex is having problems: his employer Edgar Hollingsworth has slipped into a coma, and no one knows if he'll survive.  It doesn't help that Edgar's son Clark has returned and is barking orders like his father has already died, and everyone dislikes him.

Also, an elderly friend, Mrs. Tubbs, who is also neighbor to Candace has an accident and winds up in the hospital.  She agrees to help her out, even caring for the woman's cat.  But even finding out she's going to be on the show isn't going to help when she goes to Mrs. Tubbs' home and sees something in the snow - that something being the body of Candace.  After her friend Mona was heard in Randy's bar making a remark about killing the woman, she's the main suspect.

With Sergio gone, Officer Donnie has taken over, and he has no idea what he's doing.  He's basically standing still while Hayley runs the investigation (somewhat) and she needs to find a killer before Mona is convicted of the crime.  Let the games begin...

This is the third book in the series, and by far the worst. Most people read to get away from daily problems, not have them follow you into a book. In the first few pages, Hayley's garage collapses and crushes her car; her furnace breaks; and she's forgotten to mail her car insurance so her policy was cancelled. The only saving grace is her kids are with their father for winter break so aren't around to suffer. So what does she do? She goes out drinking, because alcohol solves all problems, as everyone knows, right?

But let's not stop there: it seems her brother - who owns a bar and is living with the police chief, is also broke. I guess he gives a lot of free drinks, because most bars (nice ones, anyway) make money. Otherwise, why own it? It's a lot of work to not make a decent living. His partner Sergio must also make a piddling sum if he had to clean out their bank account to go on vacation - which brings up the question as to why did he go if it meant cleaning out the account? Priorities, people.

Bar Harbor must be the worst-paying city in America since no one seems to have any money. Honestly, I'm really tired of reading about Hayley struggling to make a living. She has 'victim' written all over her and is probably the most depressing protagonist I've ever read about. I guess I shouldn't wonder why I feel depressed after reading one of these books, but just be grateful I don't know her in real life. Why doesn't she send her resume to better-paying newspapers? Surely she'd be willing to move for tons more money? You can make a life anywhere if the pay is right.

Unfortunately, I also had a hard time believing Blueberry's behavior. He's a house cat, not a dog. They don't just randomly attack people and pee outside a litter box unless they feel threatened, are scared or have health problems. Did Mrs. Tubbs mistreat this cat so much that he reacted this way? Even Jackson Galaxy (look it up) would have a hard time believing this. House cats are not feral, and they don't act feral, but this cat acted like the bowels of Hell was after it. Why? There was no indication he should have acted this way and I don't buy the behavior. I've had cats my entire life and never had one act like this - not even feral cats I've fostered and adopted. This cat must have been beaten regularly by its owner - yet later in the book it calmly gets into Mrs. Tubbs's lap. Really? It hates every human but her? Not likely. The author must be an ailurophobe. Cats are just as loving as dogs, and don't attack for no reason. This part of the book bothered me the most.

Then there's the situation of Donnie: How did he get to be a police officer? Why would anyone hire someone this stupid? What cop would pick up a bagged murder weapon and take it out for personal use? (Perhaps he'll be the murder victim in the next book since he's Too Stupid To Live). Not to mention (but I will) that the time of death could’t have been two hours earlier if Candace was arguing with her sister at 8:30. MEs don't get that kind of thing wrong.

Then there's Lex, who is an ass. Who comes over to your house late at night, drunk, and tries to break your door down, and then you still want to date him? Doesn't Hayley realize he could act like this around her kids? But I guess to someone who drinks as much as she does, that this is an everyday occurrence. I also imagine everyone in the Hollingsworth household was brand new, because NONE of them had ever seen the real adult Clark, even though he was Edgar's SON! How much sense does that make? Was there no one who had worked there over ten years who would have seen him? Heard his voice? Yet Hayley was the only person who became suspicious (aside from the dead woman). Most people keep their employees forever - except this guy, apparently.

Sadly, the only thing these people remember to do is get drunk - and sometimes drive drunk. I guess living in Maine in the winter, to quote a famous film line, "A man's got to do something to keep warm." There's drinking and then there's drinking. These people are drinking. A lot.

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