Sunday, January 15, 2012

Bingo Barge Murder by Jessie Chandler

Publisher:    Llewellyan Worldwide Ltd. (Midnight Ink Books)

Bingo Barge Murder is the debut novel for Jessie Chandler and the first in the Shay O'Hanlon mystery series.  It's another entry in the genre of slapstick stories that feature a bumbling amateur and her friends.

Shay O'Hanlon runs a coffee shop called The Rabbit Hole where her most difficult job is making a proper latte until the police want to talk to her best friend Coop about the murder of his boss.  Instead of working with a police detective who Shay finds very attractive, she decides to try and solve the situation herself.  The consequences result in kidnappings, more murders and tangling with Mafia hit men.  The entire plot revolves around a shipment of very valuable nuts that Shay manages to steal and that several other parties want.  Along the way Shay acquires a large, but loveable dog and manages to put more of her friends in danger.  Even taking the beautiful  Detective Bordeaux into her confidence doesn't insure that Shay will be able to rescue her friends or escape injury herself.                      

Readers who enjoy farcical stories with humorous characters will probably like this book.  It has the stereotypical people – the hapless friend who can't do anything right (Coop), the feisty older woman who doesn't know when to be quiet (Eddy) and the unrepentant gossip (Kate).  The villains also fit into typical role models.  None of the characters are developed beyond their roles, so they tend to be rather flat.  The story moves along at a clip however and has enough ridiculous situations to be amusing.

True lovers of mysteries will probably want to avoid this book.  There really isn't a mystery in it except to wonder how many inept maneuvers characters can make in one story.  Not once, but twice, Shay knows that "dangerous" people are after her and, instead of insulating herself and her friends from the threat, she decides to go to sleep or do something else which allows the criminals to catch up to her.  All Shay can talk about is how efficient and good at her job  Detective Bordeaux is, but then she treats the police like they can't solve a simple case.  Shay, who has no training at all, manages to keep finding evidence that is in plain view, but seems to have eluded the police when they went through the same area.  Bordeaux reveals that the police have been working on the case for months with few solutions, but Shay is able to settle everything in a matter of days. Vicious killers can't deal with an old woman or manage to shoot a gun and hit someone who is standing right in front of them.  After a while these inconsistencies become irritating.

Bingo Barge Murder isn't a bad book.  It simply contains many of the missteps made by first time authors.  There is enough good about it to hold out hope that Chandler will improve with experience.  She has a strong cast of characters to work with and that might be where the book went astray.  Since it is the first in a series, it reads more like Chandler was trying to introduce her cast than focus on telling a compelling mystery.  The book is fine for an entertaining reading, but it's not one that has you turning pages because you can't put it down.

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