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Cozy Mystery, Women’s fiction
March 26, 2013
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From brunch in Bel Air to homeless in Hollywood…
Former actress Meg Barnes used to have it all: tony Beverly Hills address, Amex Black card, Manolos for every day of the month. Not to mention a career as a popular TV detective that made her glittering life possible. But her lifestyle of the rich and famous has turned into a reality show for d-listed starlets. Lost in her Louboutins, she has one man to thank: her con man of a husband.
Handsome FBI agent Jack Mitchell knows a suspect when he sees one—even if she’s as beautiful and gutsy as Meg. Meg’s ex “made off” with half of Hollywood’s wealth in an epic real estate scam. And Jack thinks Meg may have been involved.
Determined to prove her innocence Meg teams up with her quirky, movie-mad best friend to track down her fugitive husband and exact justice. But getting her life, and her career, back on track is harder than auditioning for Spielberg. Especially when her life is threatened. Meg has to trust Jack, the man who may want her behind bars…or as his leading lady for life.
I picked this book because I watched Dark Shadows, even though I knew there wouldn’t be anything about vampires in Down and Out in Beverly Heels, because Kathryn Leigh Scott was part of the cast of my long ago favorite. The “what happens after” connection was enough to make me curious, and I’m glad it did.
Meg Barnes is an “actress of a certain age’ who is so far below barely scraping by in Hollywood that she is living in her classic Volvo. She had one terrific hit TV series, and still gets residuals from lots of shows she did, but her con man husband ran a real estate scheme that seems to have put Bernie Madoff to shame and left her holding the bag, and the blame.
The Volvo, and those residual checks, are all she has left. Too many people think that she knows where “Paul the scumbag” went with everyone’s money or that she was in on his shady deals. Meg doesn’t know anything, and she wasn’t in on it. She lost everything but her pride.
She ran away for a year, but now she’s back. And that’s where the fun begins. Because Meg’s back in Hollywood, where all her husband’s victims are, she starts getting threatening notes on her Volvo. She’s followed. And, of course, everyone whispers about the scandal.
She can’t even divorce the bastard, because he’s never been found. He’s presumed dead, but there’s no body. Not his body. Other bodies, people he knew, start turning up.
The FBI is back on the case. But Meg isn’t sure whether the lead FBI agent, Jack Mitchell, wants to investigate her or date her. She’s not quite sure what she wants to do about him, either.
One thing Meg is certain of, this time she isn’t running away. The more threats she gets, and the more times she gets told to back off, the more determined she is to find out what is really going on.
Meg Barnes wants her life back. No matter who, and how hard, she has to fight for it.
Escape Rating B: Down and Out in Beverly Heels is a solidly fun mystery with a lovely helping of a women’s friendship story in the mix.
Meg’s history in Hollywood was nostalgic and entertaining. The way she described the character in her old TV show, I kept visualizing her as Stephanie Powers in Hart to Hart, even though her Jinx character was a magician’s assistant. The image worked for me. I also just plain liked her memories of “Old Hollywood”.
As a character, Meg grows from sort of a wimp to a take-charge can-do person. She does take risks she shouldn’t, but she goes from scared rabbit to finally living her own life. It’s a good character arc and makes her story worth following. Her developing friendship with Donna is great to read about, especially as Donna also grows and comes out of her shell. They help each other!
The mystery had trawlers full of red herrings. Although it was kind of easy to guess that the bastard-hubby wasn’t dead, exactly how he wasn’t dead and why definitely took some figuring. Very slippery. And he was a slime so I’m glad Meg solved her life.
One of the things that made the story better was that the “good guy” the FBI agent, did not save the day. Meg solved her own problems in the end. Heading on the road toward a happily ever after is the reward for a job well done, but the guy doesn’t rescue her, she rescues herself with a little help from a true friend.
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