Sunday, December 6, 2009

How to Host a Killer Party-Penny Warner

How to Host a Killer Party
Penny Warner
Obsidian, Feb 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451229304

At San Francisco State University, all part-time instructors were riffed due to budget cuts. Presley Parker was one of the first downsized by the school, but she rebounded quickly by opening up Killer Parties, an event planning firm. She mostly sponsors children’s galas, but her big break comes when Mayor Davin Green chooses her to host his surprise wedding for his fiancée on Alcatraz.

Before the nuptials, police detective Luke Melvin calls Presley asking her to come to the station so he can question her regarding the murder of the mayor’s previous event planner Andi Sax. She offers no information of use to the cop. Presley gets back to work on the wedding plan but is concerned since Melvin tells her that Andi left a message on her Blackberry that she had an appointment with Parker; a meeting she denies ever arranging or agreeing to have. When the mayor’s fiancé turns up dead of poisoning just like Andi, she becomes Detective Melvin’s number one suspect. Fearing jail time, Presley who reluctantly accepts the help of crime scene cleaner Brad Matthews begin to investigate even as someone breaks into her home and sets her office on fire.

The second Party Planner mystery with tips (see Dead Body Language) is a delightful whodunit due to a strong lead and the eccentric cast who bring a flavor of San Francisco to life (and death) and a horde of suspects (in her mind that is) with viable motives. The heroine is a curious mix of vulnerability and daring do, which endears her to readers and Brad, but drives Melvin to want to lock her away in Alcatraz. Although a lawyer might be a better choice than Brad, fans will enjoy this fun amateur sleuth mystery starring a charming party planner who fears her business will go bankrupt if she wears stripes.

Harriet Klausner