Sunday, March 20, 2011

Review: Buttercream Bump-Off (2011)

"You are aware he's a murder suspect." Martinez turned away from the sink and studied Angie with concern.

"He didn't do it," she said. "He's a musician, not a killer."

"Don't fool yourself," Martinez said. "I once had a case where a Sunday-school teacher chopped up her husband and put him in the freezer because he kept leaving his underwear on the bathroom floor."

"Well, that would grate after a while," Angie said.

Synopsis:In which the author does several hard things with seeming ease and wins me over for life.

Grade: A

Thing the first! Series are hard. And then there's that whole "sophomore curse" thing. Say you've got a great idea and you rip through and write a book from it. Everyone loves the book; you're riding high! WOO! And then the next book's due and there are these shoes that are apparently yours and you have to live up to the first book and then there's a batch of cookies in the pantry and before you know it there are just crumbs and nerves. I'm not saying that happened here, because you know, this book? The second in McKinlay's series? IS PHENOMENAL. It's just as good as the first and, more importantly, it's good in some different ways. The characters take off in interesting arcs and people behave like people would, that is to say flawed and imperfectly. I love this!

Thing the second! Madcap physical comedy is very, very hard to write. It's hard to coordinate everyone and find all the words for how exactly someone slides across a greasy restaurant kitchen floor on their knees and that other word for the noise they make when they smack into the fridge and meanwhile there are all those airborne pies and -- and McKinlay makes it look effortless.

The Fairy Tale Cupcakes Bakery keeps rocking along as the novel opens, and if co-owner Melanie Cooper's relationship with her DA boyfriend has stalled, well everyone gets busy sometimes. Then her mother starts dating, she and Angie run a Valentine's Couples Cupcakes class, someone gets killed and a rock star drops into the midst of everyone and makes Angie and the bakery's third partner have to take stock of their situation. Also, Angie's brothers attempt to regulate her love life, with the inevitable tragic results.

Look, I'm being vague for a reason. Even if you haven't read the first installment of the series, you should read this one. It's that relative rarity in genre writing: a good book. Not just a good mystery, but a really gripping, fun, well executed story. I loved it. I just don't want to spoil it for everyone else.