Saturday, January 21, 2012

Review of Cheryl Crane's The Bad Always Die Twice

Title: The Bad Always Die Twice
Author: Cheryl Crane
Publisher: Kensington Books
Format: Hardcover and eBook
Source: Goodreads FirstReads Program
Publication Date: September 1, 2011
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

I won this book from Goodreads First Reads program, which was a nice surprise, because I probably wouldn't have purchased it for myself if I had seen it on the shelf in the bookstore. (Note to publisher - that cover is HORRIBLE!!) Cheryl Crane is the daughter of actress Lana Turner, and there are semi-autobiographical touches throughout the book, which add an air of verisimilitude. I believe this is Ms. Crane’s first novel, although she has published other non-fiction works in the past. While there are a few glitches that detracted from my enjoyment of the mystery, Nikki Harper was a likeable character with a strong voice, and I'll definitely be looking forward to reading the next Nikki Harper mystery.

Hollywood realtor Nikki Harper is the daughter of 50s bombshell Victoria Bordeaux and is celebrating the recent sale of the white elephant mansion of TV has been actor, Rex March. But only a few days later, Rex March’s body is discovered in the bed of Nikki’s best friend and business partner, Jessica Martin. What makes the discovery so bizarre is that Rex supposedly died 6 months earlier in a fiery plane crash. Nikki finds herself trying to clear Jessica’s name, and as the investigation progresses, we meet some of Hollywood’s quirkiest characters. But Nikki soon begins to wonder if trying to clear Jessica’s name has attracted the killer’s attention to this realtor turned P.I.

There are many things to like about this mystery. Ms. Crane's writing is smooth and easy to read, and Nikki Harper's character is very likeable and down to earth. I love the relationship she has with her 50s movie star mother, Victoria Bordeaux and all the glimpses of old Hollywood glamour. Victoria and Nikki come across as real people you would want to spend time with, and Nikki’s friends and family make up a zany but loveable supporting cast. Also, you'll really enjoy Nikki's voice, which I think promises well for Ms. Crane's future novels.

I would have rated this book a 4 if it were not for a few small complaints. The first is that Nikki's best friend, Jessica, is really obnoxious. When Jessica is accused of murdering a former client and lover, Nikki immediately steps up to investigate what's going on, but Jessica is so unlikeable that it was hard for me to understand why Nikki would be her friend, much less such a loyal friend that she's willing to snoop around to clear her friend's name.

The second complaint is that there are small hints of a romantic relationship for Nikki, but these never really materialize into anything. If the relationship is going to be important, I would like it to be a more central part of Nikki's life. If it's not, then I'm not sure the character even needs to be included, because his presence doesn't add much to the narrative arc.

All of that aside, this was a pleasant read with a well thought-out mystery. Nikki Harper was such a likeable character that I kept turning the pages, and the secondary characters that make up her support system (her mother and several friends) were delightful.

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