Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Review: The Chick and the Dead (Pepper Martin #2) by Casey Daniels

Book: The Chick and the Dead (Pepper Martin #2) by Casey Daniels
Release Date: 1 Mar 2007
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Cozy Mystery, Fantasy, Ghosts
Summary: Ever since the former rich girl-turned-Cleveland cemetery tour guide banged her head on a headstone, she sees dead people. Worse still, she hears them—and they won't shut up! Now it's Didi Bowman, a poodle-skirted relic from the Great Beyond, who's bending Pepper's ear, complaining that her famous author sister, Merilee, has done her wrong. Trouble is, if Pepper proves it, she'll break the hearts of millions of Merilee's fans. And if she doesn't, Didi's ghost may never go away.
Pepper needs peace and quiet (and rent money), so the cash-strapped ex-heiress agrees to take a job as Merilee's secretary and dig around the family tree. But when she unearths more than she bargained for—like an illegitimate daughter, a bunch of illicit love affairs, and a possible murder—suddenly a very poisoned pen is all set to write Pepper out of the story permanently.
Buy It: Amazon
Previous Book(s): My review of Don of the Dead

Review: Pepper Martin is finally free of ghosts, or so she hopes. She managed to run the latest ghost off moments before finding out she'd be out of a job for the whole summer. A famous and beloved historical romance writer will be visiting for the opening of her book's museum and Pepper's tours won't be possible with so much attention focused on Merilee. Now Pepper needs to find Didi, the ghost, because solving her murder might just let Pepper continue to pay her bills. Didi's not interested in that kind of help however, she wants Pepper to prove that Merilee, her sister, stole her book.
Book one Pepper and book two Pepper are the same person but not. It's really hard for me to verbally describe what's going on with this. All of the traits that drove me batty in Don of the Dead have been significantly diluted but not completely removed. And the favorable traits shine much more easily in The Chick and the Dead. It's a little bit like Pepper in the first book was a cartoon of an outline for what makes up Pepper whereas Pepper in this book is an actual person.
I was a lot more emotionally involved in the mystery for The Chick and the Dead than the previous book which actually decreased my enjoyment a little. I enjoyed the first book because it was cute, light and fun but the mystery in this one cast a slightly angst ridden cloud over the book. I'm amazed, cozy mystery that elicits an emotional response, but I'd been hoping for what the previous experience gave me. That said, I did find that I appreciated Pepper's antics significantly more because her humor was much more appreciated.
Despite the more emotional quality, I enjoyed how different the mystery in The Chick and the Dead was from the previous book, Don of the Dead. I didn't read the summary before picking up this one and had been expecting another murder mystery. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the mystery in this one couldn't have been any more different. Mobster vs. romance writer, murder vs. stolen book, gruff ghost vs. sweet perky ghost etc. I really enjoyed the mob theme of the previous book but having such an immensely different take on solving a mystery for a ghost was really fun to read. Honestly, when I began this book I was expecting something familiar, a similar mystery with a different ghost and definitely the same crazy Pepper. Instead I got a totally new mystery and a Pepper who has definitely changed for the better since the last book. The series does liken a lot to a TV series though. Each book is it's own episode instead of an epic story. I usually prefer that one extended immersion but I I found myself appreciating the 'episodes' of Pepper Martin Mysteries. I like that I can just pick up a book, read it and enjoy it, then move on. This series is a wonderful beach book (simply for pleasure, quick read).
A few characters from Don of the Dead returned to The Chick and the Dead that I hadn't been expecting. I didn't really care all too much about these characters but I was glad to see they weren't completely disposed of. It allowed more Pepper growth to become visable because it was in these interactions in the previous book that she had bothered me the most.
If the first book in the Pepper Martin series wasn't for you, this book is still worth trying out because all of my complaints from the first book have been mostly ironed out. The mystery kept me on my toes and the small preview for the next book has me even more interested in continuing the series.

Quotes & Thoughts as I Read:
  • She shrugged like it was no big deal. "Time doesn't work the same here as it does there. Gus, he told me all about you. He said he was pretty sure you'd moan and groan about how much you hated working for him but that deep down, you're really grateful that he showed up. After all, before he did, I hear your life was dullsville." Haha! I'm really liking the new ghost so far. Plus 'dullsville' is so Scooby Doo.
  • Ella walked down the hallway, and her words faded. It was just as well, I knew what she was going to say. She only wished her girls would turn out as well as me. Really? I wondered if she'd feel the same way if she knew I'd turned out to be a broke cemetery tour guide whose job had just been whisked out from under her feet. Oh yeah, and I talked to dead people, too. Oh, ouch. Poor Pepper and Ella is completely clueless. I can't believe she was practically crying in excitement when she also had to break this news.
  • "Rick Jensen!" he called out. "National Inquisitor. Are you—" "Anybody?" I hated to burst Rick's bubble, but there was no use in him wasting his film. I gave him a smile and a wave. "Sorry. I only work here." Rick was a good sport. He shrugged and took a picture anyway. Probably on the off chance that I might actually prove to be somebody who was somebody. !!! If this had happened in the previous book Pepper would have claimed he'd taken the picture because her breasts are that magnificent. She's all grown up now! I'm so excited!!
  • Merilee's skin was porcelain. Her eyes were the same shade of baby blue as Didi's. From beneath her hat, I saw a sweep of silvery hair. She accepted Ella's homage and held on to her hand long enough to assure a good photo. "We are honored to have you here," Ella said. "Of course you are." Merilee smiled, and something told me that if she hadn't been busy making sure that the photographer who darted forward for a picture didn't get exactly the right shot, she would have patted Ella on the head. Like a dog. Ugh! Can you imagine idolizing someone for years and years and being so excited to meet them only to have them treat you like a bug?! That would completely traumatize me.
  • "Why?" I groaned. "Why is it so important?" Ella, being rational, thought the question was for her. She hurried over and sat in the chair next to mine. The better to have a heart-to-heart with me. "Merilee's doing us a tremendous favor. Us being ISFTDS, of course. And us being Garden View. Look at all the fabulous publicity we've gotten." I'm sorry but every time I read 'ISFTDS' all I see is STD and it makes me giggle and think of SPEW from Harry Potter... and, you know, STDs.
  • Joe chuckled. His eyes were wide with pretended amazement. "Ma'am," he said, "this is the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and sixty-three. No proper lady talks like that!" "I've got news for you, Joe." I grabbed my suitcase and headed up the front steps, carefully stepping around cracked boards and a box of spilled nails. "I'm no proper lady. You want proof, stick around. Something tells me that before I get out of here, I'm going to be using plenty of four-letter words." Confession time. While I find ComicCon, Halloween and pretty much every other reason to geek out and get dressed up to be so much fun, I have NEVER understood reenactments. Seriously, a bunch of old men dressing up in military uniforms and acting out scenes where people died, where seriously horrible things happened? It doesn't make sense to me and it honestly seems morbid and horribly inappropriate.

Rating: 3½ Bites

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