Mug Shot by Caroline Fardig
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Business is pretty good at the coffee shop Juliet Langley manages for her best friend Pete Bennett, until Juliet stumbles over the body of Pete's girlfriend in the tent/booth Java Jive was to staff at a benefit race that morning. When Pete is arrested for murder, Juliet goes on the offensive, determined to clear his name, despite repeated admonitions from her boyfriend, Detective Ryder Hamilton, to stay out of it and let the police do their job. Not listening to him nearly costs Juliet her life.
The second book in the series got off to a rocky start with me when the main character cracked a potty joke worthy of a 12 year old boy in the first scene. Yet we're to believe Juliet and Pete are adults?
I'd hoped it would get better, but I read for character, and I was stunned by the choices Ms. Fardig made between the first and second books in her series. For example, she wrote herself back INTO a corner with the Juliet/Pete/Ryder love triangle, which made no sense. At the end of book #1, Pete and Juliet finally get together and begin to acknowledge that each has been pining for the other for a dozen years, yet two months later when book #2 begins, they've long since broken up and agreed to be "just friends"? For real? No. Finding that navigating a romantic relationship while maintaining a professional one is harder than they thought, OK, but giving up and resuming previous patterns of behavior? No. And Pete picking right back up with his stuck up, bitchy, jealous (ex)girlfriend? HUH?? Also, NO. We're supposed to believe he would rather date someone who treats people, including him, like garbage instead of his best friend who he's been head-over-heels in love with for over a decade? Seriously? No.
So many of the things Juliet says and does in this book are downright idiotic. I had a hard time rooting for someone so immature and lacking in impulse control. The Redheaded She-Devil concept was at least funnier in the first book. This time around I found myself gritting my teeth and wishing she would grow up and think things through for a change.
The secondary characters in book #2 also lack internal consistency. It felt to me like Ms. Fardig started writing the book one way and then couldn't figure out who the killer was and so forced her characters to contort in order to come up with an ending. Particularly the unexpected twist near the end that revealed the murderer--my jaw dropped, and not in a good way.
I did appreciate the section of the book set in Nashville's Centennial Park, as I was just there earlier this summer and visited the Parthenon replica, so I could picture those scenes much more vividly than I would have been able to in the past. I also enjoyed the glimpse into Ryder's past as he took Juliet to the Christmas tree farm.
For readers' advisors: story doorway is primary. There is a ton of swearing, but usually pretty mild as swearing goes. The sex and most of the violence happens off-screen.
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