Antiques Chop by "Barbara Allan" (2013)
Husband and wife writing team Max Allan Collins and Barbara Collins are back with their seventh Trash 'n' Treasure mystery, this time taking on the world of reality television.
Followers of the series are familiar with Brandy Bourne, the thirtyish divorcee, and her manic mother Vivian. Since Brandy moved back to Serenity, Iowa, to live with her manic mother, the small town on the Mississippi has been host to a plethora of murder -- each solved by Brandy and Vivian in their scattershot and scatterbrained way. The two have gained a reputation of mixing their antique business with murder.
Which makes quite a hook for a Hollywood producer looking for the next big reality series. Bruce Spring (he used to be Springstein, but a version of that name seemed to be taken) pitches the idea of Antiques Sleuth to the Bournes, an Antiques Roadshow rip-off with an emphasis on the pair's mystery-solving abilities. The show would provide them with a new space for their shop and a lot of publicity. How can you turn something like that down?
And what better place to put their new shop than in Serenity's famous Murder House, where, in 1950, rich, tight-fisted Archibald Butterfield was murdered with an axe. The murderer (and the axe) was never found. Suspicion had fallen on Archibald's son Andrew but the case against Andrew fell apart thanks to the testimony of a young Vivian. The Bourne's received permission to move their shop into the old house when Brandy's thirteen-year-old son stumbles across the gory hacked-up body of Bruce Spring. Sitting by the body and holding a bloody axe is Joe Lange, a traumatized war veteran and Brandy's friend.
The authors once again pull off an enjoyable, fast-paced cozy, complete with a hobby-like hook (antiques), a pet (Sushi, the old, blind, diabetic Shih Tzu), an attractive heroine (Brandy), an odd-ball character (Vivian), an interesting setting (Serenity, with a full complement of interesting characters), a mystery in the past (Archibald's murder), and a sort-of bloodless murder (well, yeah, chopping someone up is kinda bloody, but the authors don't go in for graphic descriptions). What sets this series apart from other cozies is the humor and interplay between Brandy and her mother and the absolute removal of the "fourth wall," allowing Brandy and her mother to speak directly to the reader, their editor, and (in offside comments) each other. Along the way we also get a few strange emoticons, antiquing tips, a recipe, and the last chapter in a difficult to read (for me, anyway) typeface.
If you haven't tried this series yet, you should. Pure fun from the get-go.