Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Caught Dead in Philadelphia: Review

Amanda Pepper is a bit annoyed when a fellow teacher from Philadelphia Prep arrives, wet and dripping, on her doorstep one morning. She's also a bit confused--after all, she and Liza Nichols aren't exactly bosom pals. Liza, a part-time actress & part-time instructor, is beautiful and well on her way to becoming the full-time wife of a scion of one of Philadelphia's wealthiest families. Liza isn't too coherent about her purpose, but swears all she needs is some sleep--could she please take a nap on Amanda's couch until she's supposed to meet Amanda's class in the afternoon? 

But Liza doesn't show up for the discussion of Macbeth and Amanda is definitely annoyed with her morning visitor when she heads home for the day. She figures Liza stood her up to go shopping for bridal clothes or something. But when she gets home she finds her door unlocked and Liza is lying on the floor, dead. Once the police arrive, Amanda is in for another shock...she seems to be a suspect. The handsome detective in charge of the case, C. K. Mackenzie makes her believe he thinks she ran home on her lunch break to shove Liza violently against fireplace.

True to cozy mystery tradition, Amanda decides to do a little sleuthing on her own--to clear her name and to clear up a few other mysteries. Like--who was the Winnie-the-Pooh necklace intended for? Why did Liza really come to her house? Why did Liza tell everyone that she and Amanda were best buddies? Why did she tell her mother and her fiancee that she was spending weekends and overnights at Amanda's house? Why does everyone connected with the case think that Amanda knows more than she's telling? And most importantly--does the killer think Amanda knows something dangerous? By the time Mackenzie crosses her off his suspect list, they've figured out that their relationship needs a little investigating as well. But Mackenzie will need to find a killer before the killer crosses all the victims off of his (or her) list....and before he gets to Amanda.

Winner of the Anthony Award for Best First Mystery (1988), Caught Dead in Philadelphia is, indeed, a very good debut novel by Gillian Roberts. Caught Dead caught my eye because of its cozy academic spin and it kept me reading because it's a nicely done, fast-paced read. Amanda Pepper is a feisty protagonist who still has quite reasonable fears and wobbly legs when confronted with murder. I enjoy her interactions with C. K. Mackenzie (and her efforts to learn his disguised first name) and I look forward to continuing the series to see how their relationship develops.

Roberts give us a good mystery plot with an abundance of suspects and motives--enough to keep armchair detectives guessing and waiting for the next clue. Mixed with humor, it makes for an enjoyable, light read. ★★★★

This fulfills the "Academic Mystery" square on the Silver Vintage Bingo card.

All Challenges fulfilled: 100 Plus Challenge, How Many Books, Vintage Mystery Challenge, Reading Road Trip, Monthly Motif, Mount TBR Challenge, What's in a Name, Cloak & Dagger, My Kind of Mystery, 52 Books in 52 Weeks, Men in Uniform, A-Z Mystery Author Challenge

1 comment:

fredamans said...

Sounds highly suspenseful and I like that it's in the late 80's. That is a great era! Great review too!