Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Laughed 'Til He Died by Carolyn Hart

Laughed 'Til He Died is the latest installment in the Death on Demand series by Carolyn Hart.

From Publishers Weekly
In Anthony-winner Hart's lively 20th Death on Demand mystery (after 2009's Dare to Die), more than one death in Broward's Rock, S.C., engages Annie Darling and her husband, Max. First, Click Silvester, a black teenager who hung out at the Haven, a teen activity center, apparently falls to his death from a wooden viewing platform in the woods. Later, someone shoots obnoxious Haven board member Booth Wagner on stage during an outdoor evening benefit for the center. Many had motives for killing Booth, including his stepson, Tim Talbot, who feared and hated him; his wife, Neva, who's curiously unmoved by his death; his former mistress, Jean Hughes, who was terrified of being fired as the Haven's director and becomes police chief Billy Cameron's prime suspect. A group of local ladies, led by mystery writer Emma Clyde, assist Annie and Max in the hunt for the real killer. Well-developed characters and a complex, fast-moving plot make for a satisfying read.

On her bookstore
Each book was utterly original.  Annie loved recommending these authors and she was thankful for mysteries, old and new, that made her bookstore a magnet for mystery lovers.   Annie was convinced her customers also came for the ambience, a molting raven perched above the children's section near a photograph of Edgar Allen Poe's tomb, comfortably cushioned wicker chairs and potted ferms a la the days of Mary Roberts Rinehart, and posters from famous mystery movies, including The Cat and the Canary, Charlie Chan Carries On, The Thin Man, Ellery Queen and the Murder Ring, and Murder by Death. 

On letting the reader know that things are about to heat up
She [Annie] hummed the melody and waltzed across the floor of the coffee bar and back.  Sometimes, when she was happy, she had to dance.  She was happy today, happy to be in her wonderful bookstore, happy to adore her demanding cat, happy that she and Max had planned a very special evening tonight....

On Agatha, Annie's store cat
She [Annie] approached cautiously, a veteran of many losing skirmishes with her gorgeous but iron-willed cat.  The choice of Agatha to honor Agatha Christie had perhaps been a mistake, since the celebrated Queen of Crime had been known as a kindly person.  Maybe she should have named Agatha, gender aside, for Mickey Spillane.

Annie and Max Darling are quickly becoming a favorite mystery couple for me, and along with the cast of "regulars" who live in Broward's Rock, SC, promise hours of mysteriously happy reading as I catch up on 1-18 in this series.  Then, there's all the titles and authors that Annie recommends....

Rating:  4/5 (Mystery Scale)

Dedication:  To Dorothy Sayre, whose goodness shines like a beacon.


Nan said...

Oh, boy, a new series for me! I have heard of it over the years, but your post makes me want to begin. I love the description of the bookstore, esp. the posters. Thanks so much!

Marcia said...

I've been trying a lot of different mystery series lately. Some are good; others are one and done. I'm happy to have found the Darlings and hope you enjoy them, too, Nan.

Nan said...

Just coming back to say thank you! I adored Death on Demand, and the library is going to get me the second one via Inter Library Loan. Oh, that bookstore! And I loved so much the way she dropped the names of mystery authors and characters into the story. A mystery lover's dream cozy mystery. Thanks again.

Marcia said...

I'm so happy that you like Death on Demand, Nan. My expectation is that just like any other series, there will winning and losing installments, but so far I've enjoyed every one I've read.

And, isn't Inter Library Loan great?