Saturday, February 28, 2015

REVIEW: Flamenco, Flan and Fatalities


Happy Hoofers Mystery 2:
Flamenco, Flan & Fatalities
Mary McHugh

Genre: Mystery, Cozy, Women Sleuths
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 2.24.2015
Pages: 318

Recommended by: Great Escapes Book Tours, Read 2 Review
Date read: 2.27.2015


I'm totally on a middle ground when it comes to this book.  I did not love it, I did not hate it - in fact, I liked the story - I just didn't realize that I did until I was about 70% in, and the story ends around 83%.

I love a good mystery and the book description on this one really caught my eye.  It was very misleading, though.  At no point in the story is Gini considered "suspect numero uno."  It is joked around about, the detective does question her (he questions everyone on the train), but it's all very light hearted when it comes to her - and the other dancers - as if they could never do anything wrong, and everyone trusts them immensely.  

It is slow-going at the beginning and there were questions that kept popping into my head:

How old are they?  I haven't read the first book, two of the ladies have been married for awhile with children, but it isn't until I read the book description for the next book (at the end of this story there is information on the next book, as well as an excerpt) that I found out they were 50+.

Why is an American dance troupe doing Flamenco dancing during a tour of Spain?  This was a big one that bothered me.  I felt like them doing it in the first place was rather disrespectful.  And the detective even acts quite disgusted about the whole idea.  Their second and third dance were both "American" - the second being to the song "New York, New York" - which sounded more like something you would expect.  

What does the story have to do with the title?  This one was mainly because of a mystery my mother read a couple of weeks ago that had the word flan in the title, and in that book it wasn't until the last chapter that flan was even spoken of, and just in passing.  I wanted to see how flan became a big part of this story, so big that it was in the title - that's big.  Like, was someone going to die from eating poisoned flan??!!??!!  (No, that didn't happen.  The death had nothing to do with flan.)

After we hit the first restaurant, the story starts picking up, and as with any good mystery, you have a list going in your head of who was going to be murdered - and who did it.  There were things that I didn't expect, suspects that I wouldn't have guessed, and the murderer was not even on my list of possibilities.  The last chapter was a summation of where everybody's life went after this trip (well, between this one and the next book), answering some of the questions that hadn't been completely answered, and I plan on reading the next book because it sounds interesting and I'm curious to see what kind of trouble these gals get into next.

I especially liked the descriptions of the scenery and the places they visited, including the restaurants, and that there were recipes for some of the things that they tried along the way.  For your photo buffs, each chapter ends with a photography tip - most of them I already knew, but there were a couple that I took note of.

I guess my main problem with the book was that there were ... lots of problems.  

(I am going to try very hard not to give away too much information beyond this point - I would hate to ruin the story for anyone - but I am pointing out some of the problems I had.  You have been warned.)

The book is written in first person, us being in Gini's mind.  She is very proud of saying everything that pops into her head, as if this is a good thing, and is always pointing out that she can't help her self, hold back her sarcasm, or keep her mouth shut.  And it is not just in what she says to other characters.  It often felt like I was stuck in the mind of a dog whose mind gets sidetracked by a squirrel.  She was all over the place sometimes, rambling off onto a subject, which ended up veering way off into left field, and taking away from the story at hand.

There were lots of side stories that did the same thing.  Sometimes it really felt like the mystery was the actual side story.  Especially at the end.  There was no real understanding of how exactly the murder did it - just a big event that made you feel like the person was guilty, which ended rather easily, then Gini's hypothesis when they key players discussed it back on the train.  In the final chapter, she does mention going back to Spain for the trial.

And her excuses for being rude weren't the only repetitive things - the one sticking out most was that it was pointed out at least five times that there were four different languages (Spanish, German, English and Norwegian) being spoken on the train at any given time.  We get it, and it really doesn't need to be told to us every time all the passengers are in one room.

Things didn't exactly add up:  For example, why did Eduardo and Javier (the detective) trust these five ladies so much?  They both went to them at different times with information (including right after the murder when Eduardo told only the dancers about the murder).  And, on that trust note, why did the dancers trust some people, but not others, when a lot of people had motives and opportunities.  It was like, without evidence, they were sure this person, that person, those people over there COULD have done it, when the same thing could have been said about Gigi herself.  Another example, why was there this "lie" hanging around about when the murder took place?  Eduardo told them BEFORE they went out to do their first dance, yet when the police were questioning them, everyone acted as if it happened in the middle of the night, including one of the dancers who said, "She certainly didn't get up in the middle of the night and kill anyone.  I would have noticed."  Several pages later, one of them confesses to the police that they already knew and that it had actually happened earlier.  (People lie when they are covering things up and this seemed like a false clue.)

The Spanish in at least one place is wrong i.e. "Por favor" is not a reply to "Muchas gracias."

I didn't really find the five dancers likable.  Not until closer to the end.  

Janice is the one I disliked the most ... and it's the author's fault.  Here's an example: "Javier could not take his eyes off Janice.  You could tell he was trying to suppress his feelings, without any luck.  He was hooked.  Janice was so beautiful.  Her face, which was always lovely, was glowing, slightly rosy, after the dance.  She pushed back her hair, now curly and untamed.  She looked so sexy, I knew Javier couldn't resist."  This is one of many times Gini talks about how gorgeous this girl is.  She is so beautiful, no man can resist her, blah blah blah blah blah *barf*  (I really do get tired of the "perfect" woman.  Hasn't that character been overwritten?  I couldn't help but roll my eyes whenever she came on the page.)  Of course, they know each other for two days, and are in love, wanting to spend every moment together - time he should have been spending investigating the murder, and she seemed very sulky when he was away.  And Javier is not the only man who is smitten with her.

The one I disliked almost as much as her was Mary Louise, which bothered me because I had actually liked her in the beginning - she really came off as very sweet.  She is a married woman, but also falls in love after two days, with a man who is still grieving over the loss of his wife, a woman that she reminds him a lot of.

Pat came off as the "token" gay woman.  It's not mentioned at first, and is really none of our business, but all of a sudden she falls in love, too - with a woman that I don't think should have been trusted as quickly as they did her.

That leaves us with Tina, who I actually did like.  She stayed out of drama, was very helpful and caring, and did her best to try to keep the rest of them corralled, though her job shouldn't have been to babysit the others.  

The characters I liked the most were the side characters, people I wanted to know more about.  Mark and Sam, Geoffrey and Danielle - they seemed like great people.  I liked Eduardo and the bartender as well.  My favorites, though, were Jonathan and Hawkeye - probably the most thought-out and interesting characters I have read about in a long time (and I liked how each character dealt with the two of them).  I also liked Geoffrey and Danielle's daughter Michele.

I always try to point out the things that I like and don't like - for the author and for potential readers - and I would suggest that the author find an editor to do a thorough go-through.  (She is more than welcome to contact me - I know several good ones.)  These were just some of the problems I found.  The book has a lot of potential and these things take away from what is a good story.


About the book:
The high-kicking Happy Hoofers - Tina, Janice, Pat, Mary Louise, and Gini - have been booked to flaunt their fabulous flamenco footwork on a luxury train ride through northern Spain.  But when a blowhard talk show host is found deader than four-day-old flan - with Gini as suspect numero uno - the feisty friends waste no time stepping into their sleuthing shoes to protect one of their own.
            The dynamite dancers will have to step up their game before a clever killer brings the curtain down on one of them ... for good!


About the author:
I live in Chatham, New Jersey and spend as much time in New York City as I an.  I love that city!  My husband and I have a date every Friday and have lunch in the city and go to a movie, especially foreign films.  I love Cape Cod and hope to live there some day and look at the ocean while I write away on my laptop.  I love Paris and go there whenever I can.  I studied there for a year when I was very young and I even like the French.  I have a one-woman act based on "How Not to Become a Little Old Lady," which I perform for women's groups and I do my impression of bacon frying, share my chocolate and wine diet, show illustrations from this book and my other humor books, and do a little tap dance at the end.  I have a daughter who lives on Mercer Island, Washington and three grandsons who are perfect. My life is very full and I love talking to other writers.

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