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Book Author: Marla Cooper

DYING ON THE VINE by Marla Cooper: Book Review

It might seem that being a wedding planner is all fun and games, with nothing for the planner to do but eat and drink at the expense of hopeful vendors and travel to wonderful sites to choose the appropriate ones for weddings.  That might be true for most planners, but trouble seems to follow Kelsey McKenna wherever she goes.  The first book of this series took place in Mexico, and there it was the tyrannical mother of the bride who made Kelsey’s life difficult; even the murder of one of the bridesmaids at her daughter’s wedding didn’t slow down the mother’s sarcasm and manipulative behavior.

In Dying on the Vine, Kelsey is closer to home, in beautiful Napa Valley, California.  Helping her friend Brody Max with his photography booth at the Wine Valley Faire, she is approached by Haley Bennett and Christopher Riegert, desperately in need of someone to help with the final details of their wedding, only four weeks away.

The next day, meeting in Kelsey’s office, Haley and Chris confide that they had had a wedding planner, the famous Babs Norton.  Haley’s father, who is paying for the wedding, got into an argument with Babs over expenses and fired her, thus the couple’s entreaty to Kelsey for help.

Wanting to be professional, Kelsey calls Babs to explain the situation.  Babs is understanding and offers Kelsey the necessary files for the wedding, the ones that contain catering, florist, and DJ information.  They make an appointment for the following day, but when Kelsey goes to Babs’ office the woman’s corpse is lying on the floor.

Although the police investigating the murder apparently believe Kelsey’s account of her discovery of the body, Babs’ assistant, Stefan Pierce, doesn’t.  For some reason Kelsey doesn’t understand, Stefan has never liked her and takes the opportunity of Babs’ wake to do all but accuse her of the murder in front of the people there, including her colleagues.  Determined to regain her good name, Kelsey, her assistant Laurel, and her photographer friend Brody band together to find out who was responsible for Babs Norton’s murder.

There’s a great sense of place in Dying on the Vine, with insights into both wine and wedding cultures, and Kelsey is an engaging heroine.  She and her two friends are portrayed realistically, as are their responses to the events around them.  Marla Cooper has written an enjoyable second novel in the Kelsey McKenna series.  Perhaps it’s the author’s own varied background, which includes writing copy for advertisers and travel guidebooks, that makes her writing so entertaining to read.  In fact, it was Ms. Cooper’s ghost-writing a guidebook for wedding planners that sparked the idea for the Kelsey McKenna series.

You can read more about Marla Cooper at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.


TERROR IN TAFFETA by Marla Cooper: Book Review

Many of us are familiar with the concept of bridezilla, a bride going wild over her wedding, making impossible last-minute demands and behaving as if the entire world must stop to accommodate her wishes.  But is there a word for a mother of the bride who acts in a similarly outrageous manner?

Kelsey McKenna is a wedding planner who has to deal with a bride’s mother from hell.  The only decision that bride-to-be Nicole Abernathy has made, apart from choosing the groom, is where the nuptials, not in Napa as her mother wanted but in Mexico.  All the other choices are made by Mrs. Abernathy.  So the wedding party heads down to San Miguel Allende for the weekend.  Kelsey has planned everything to go perfectly and it does, until immediately after the ceremony when one of the bridesmaids falls down dead on the way out of the chapel.

Naturally, Nicole’s mother blames Kelsey for this.  When Kelsey says she has to tell Nicole and Vince that one of the attendants at their wedding is dead, Mrs. Abernathy forbids it.  Her first response is, “That’s unfortunate.”  It’s followed by “Well, okay, that means there’s an extra place at table twelve.”  And when Kelsey’s photographer Brody Marx hesitantly agrees with Mrs. Abernathy, saying that she’s the one paying the bills, Kelsey reluctantly agrees to postpone sharing the unhappy news.

In actuality, it seems as if no one at the wedding was especially close to Dana Poole or is heartbroken that she’s dead.  She and Nicole had been roommates years earlier, and after initially refusing to attend the wedding Dana changed her mind at the last minute and flew down to Mexico.  Demanding and annoying as Dana was to all concerned, how long can Kelsey go on covering up the bad news?  And finally, when it’s not possible to delay any longer, Mrs. Abernathy blames Kelsey for concealing the truth.  Have I coined a new word in motherzilla?

When Kelsey finally is permitted to call the police, she and the other members of the wedding party are in for a rude shock.  They’re packed and ready to return to the United States, but the police tell them they must remain.  At least to the authorities, it looks as if one of them may be responsible for Dana’s murder.

As may be seen from the title, Terror in Taffeta is a light-hearted mystery but a mystery nevertheless.  Marla Cooper has written an enjoyable cozy, a genre defined by: (1) having an amateur sleuth, almost always a woman, as the protagonist, (2) taking place in a small town, (3) local authorities discounting the amateur’s viewpoint or ideas, and (4) a lack of bodies and blood.  This book is a perfect example.

Terror in Taffeta has a delightful heroine, a beautiful setting, and a believable cast of characters.  Another essential part of the cozy mystery is that it’s usually part of a series; I hope that means that we can follow Kelsey McKenna to future weddings.

You can read more about Marla Cooper on various sites on the web.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.