Monday, June 18, 2012

Fatal Fixer-Upper

Fatal Fixer-Upper (A Do-It-Yourself Mystery, #1)Fatal Fixer-Upper by Jennie Bentley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Avery Baker barely remembers her Great-Aunt Inga, but when she gets a puzzling hand-written request from the elderly woman asking Avery to visit soon, it's time for a road trip from New York City to small-town Maine...especially after Avery catches her boyfriend/boss cheating on her with the receptionist. Unfortunately, upon arrival in Waterfield, she discovers Aunt Inga has died and left her everything--primarily a large Victorian house badly in need of repair. And that is how she comes to meet Derek Ellis, the handsome local renovation specialist. Before long, they're duking it out over kitchen countertops and cabinets. But Avery isn't the only one with an interest in Aunt Inga's old house, and someone is determined to either scare her away or kill her. The trick is to figure out who and why before he succeeds.

My mom recommended this series to me a few months ago, but it wasn't until I was working on a readers' advisory presentation on mysteries that I decided to go ahead and try it out. (All in the name of research, of course!) I still have trouble believing Avery would have dated Philippe (her over-the-top "French" boss) for more than one date, much less four months. He made me want to gag. But Bentley more than makes up for this flaw in the story by slowly, gradually, carefully building the relationship between Avery and Derek. There were no "eyes heating" or "air crackling with electricity" moments, unless you count their arguments over home design. It was a refreshing change of pace!

I also enjoyed the secondary characters, such as Kate, the local B&B owner, and her boyfriend Wayne, the chief of police. They were smart and funny people, and even if Avery is the series "sleuth," I appreciated that Wayne wasn't portrayed as a half-witted buffoon.

Although I figured out the bad guy almost from the very beginning, I didn't guess all the details, and the story still kept me hooked until the very end. Kept me up past my bedtime, in fact, until I finished it.

For readers' advisors: story and character doorways, no sex, and only a few swear words.

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