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THE CHICK AND THE DEAD: A Pepper Martin Mystery
By Casey Daniels
Avon, February 2007 ($6.99)
Reviewed by Shirley H. Wetzel
This is the second in the Pepper Martin Mystery series. I have not read the first, DON OF THE DEAD, but I plan to remedy that as soon as possible. I was a little concerned about the title, not being much of a chick lit fan, but I was pleasantly surprised. Pepper Martin is funny, smart, and yes, she does love her designer duds, but not enough to detract from a good story.
Pepper's job as a tour guide at Cleveland's Garden View Cemetery barely pays enough to keep her in the expensive stilettos and boots she prefers, but she loves the work, and there are some unusual perks. It seems that when Pepper lost her footing and whacked her head on Mafia don Gus Scarpetti's mausoleum in the previous book, she acquired the ability to see dead people, or at least one dead person, Gus. In an amusing twist on the Ghost Whisperer, she was able to help Gus solve his murder so he could move on to wherever Mafioso go for their eternal rest. In return, he directed her to his stash of hidden loot. She thought that was the end of that, until the day Didi Bowman showed up, poodle skirt, saddle shoes and all. She needed some help, and she said Gus had referred her to Pepper. She refused to take no for an answer, and finally Pepper relented, even though Didi couldn't promise her there'd be any money in it.
Didi's problem is plagiarism. Before her death, she'd written what she thought would be a blockbuster. Her own sister, Merilee, claimed the manuscript as her own, and indeed So Far the Dawn became a major hit. The book and the movie, the northern version of Gone With the Wind, spawned a huge industry. Merilee, who has loved ones at Garden View, is coming to town to speak to the So Far the Dawn Society, and Ella, Pepper's boss, is beside herself with joy. Pepper is not so enthralled with the reclusive and abusive author, but when events led to her becoming Merilee's secretary during her visit, she's in a perfect place to prove Didi's claim to be true. Unless Didi is being less than truthful. Which, Pepper soon discovers, she often is.
This is a fun read, with a very likable and unique protagonist, a great cast of characters, and an interesting and timely plot.
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