Paula Holliday is in New York City for the Big Apple flower show. It is the last major convention keeping the Wagner Center in business and everyone is convinced that the slew of "mishaps" occurring are part of the "Javits Curse." But when a night security guard and a seemingly homeless young man wind up dead, the "mishaps" start looking like more than a superstitious curse. With the help of a by-the-rules security guard, a pole-wielding neighbor, and Brooklyn's Tumbled Stone King, Paula has to find the root of the supposed curse before it finds her.
SLUGFEST is Rosemary Harris' fourth book in the Dirty Business Mystery series. Harris' protagonist is a landscaper, which takes her to unique settings and throws her into fun plots: SLUGFEST being a maze game through a convention center decked out in garden and plant-related ornamentation.
However, no matter the setting or unique events, I still believe the strongest element of Harris' series are the characters. They're smart and funny and colorful. And Harris brings them to life through the most wonderful actions and vivid descriptions:
"He said it like the kid who had experience getting around people with equal parts of charm and flattery applied liberally with a shovel."
"Near a grass shack, under a banner that read Connie's Brooklyn Beach Garden was a blond woman dressed in an outfit that suggested she'd raided the closet of the Little Mermaid's promiscuous older sister."
While the cast of SLUGFEST is missing Harris' wonderful Babe this time around, Paula amasses a posse of strong women in her hunt to find a murderer. I appreciate Harris' portrayal of women in this series. They aren't super-sleuths, but they aren't tripping over the answers to the mystery either. The characters often have quirks and some are eccentric; they're always endearing and people you want to spend your time with. JC Kaufman hits an especially fun note with me in SLUGFEST. I hope she makes an appearance in future installments of the series.
Another strength of this series, and one that contributes to the development of the characters is Harris' ability to write witty, natural dialogue. Paula may take 300 pages to solve a crime, but when it comes to a priceless quip, she's quick on the draw.
"'Did you make a nine one one call this morning about the Garland Bleimeister case?'
'About forty-five minutes ago.' I didn't mean it to, but it came out sounding as if I were complaining about their response time.
'Technically,' Labidou said, cracking his gum, 'you should have called the precinct or the special tips number given on the news, not nine one one.'
'I'll try to remember that next time I meet a guy who gets killed.'"
And equally entertaining are her own thoughts to herself. Told from the first person point of view, the reader quickly develops a kinship with Paula.
SLUGFEST is the fourth book in the series but can be easily read without any prior knowledge of the series. However, if you enjoy fast, funny and smart, I'm certain SLUGFEST will convince you to backtrack and enjoy the entire series.
SLUGFEST will be available in hardcover (ISBN: 978-0-312-56996-9) from Minotaur next Tuesday, April 12, but can be pre-ordered now. In the meantime, DEAD HEAD, number three in the Dirty Business Mystery series is now available in mass market paperback (ISBN: 978-0-312-56995-2).