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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on October 18, 2006
JB Stanley has found even greater success than in her first book of the series: "A Killer Collection." The best part of the book is the characters and their continued development, both the original cast from the first book and the new entrants. The quirks and variety of fun, yet very realistic, personalities has the reader quickly flipping the pages to see how they resolve the latest mystery and the murder amongst them. A true pleasure to read, I can't wait for the next one!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on January 24, 2007
As the writer for the magazine Collector's Weekly Molly Applegate travels to cover all things collectible. In her latest assignment Molly is to cover the hit tv show Hidden Treasures (a fictional Antiques Roadshow). Although she is reluctant to leave her budding office romance with Mark, the magazine's Marketing Director, she is anxious for the chance to see the behind the scenes workings of the popular tv show. After settling into the lovely and cozy bed and breakfast run by the friendly Mrs. Hewell, she goes to the Museum at which the show is being filmed. Many of the cast prove to be nice, open people who are eager to share their knowledge and expertise. But not everyone is so forthcoming and anxious to help. Frank Sterling, the star appraiser, and his wife, who is also the host of the show, are not the friendly type, not with cast members, strangers or even each other. But it is still a surprise when Frank goes missing, only to be found by Molly dead in his car. The police are not sure it is murder until the second body appears.

The setting of the book and the series in the world of collectibles is a brilliant one with limitless potential for story lines. The addition of a story from the past woven into the story in the present is a wonderful glimpse into history. Even in this work of fiction, it highlights the importance of preserving pieces of our heritage. The last chapter "A Brief Note on Hiding Places in Antique Furniture" with pictures of examples of hidden compartments is informative and interesting.

This book can stand alone as a mystery but it would be interesting to see if some of the characters were introduced more thoroughly in the previous book, especially Clara, Molly's mother. It will be fun to see the character of Molly grow as the stories continue. It is not difficult to figure out who dun it but finding out why is an entertaining search.

Molly Appleby was first introduced in A Killer Collection. This is the second in J.B. Stanley's A Collectible Mystery series. She is also the author Carbs and Cadavers, the first in the Supper Club Series.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 16, 2008
This is my first mystery by this author, and although it was good enough for me to finish it -- and once I finally got into it, it was something of a page-turner -- the writing was so bad at parts it was almost funny. I mean, there were oaks spreading their arms over neat lawns! There were a lot of catalog-like descriptions of things -- clothing (we know what our heroine wore every day), food, clothing, food, houses, food... I would have thought there'd be a lot about antiques, but there really wasn't. The photos in the back of the book supposedly showing secret panels in antiques were so dark you couldn't actually see anything, which was a shame, because that sounded interesting.

Some of the facts in the book are clearly off -- for example, our heroine is walking around a huge statue of Lee on horseback -- we hear that the top of Lee's hat is 20 feet off the ground -- and our heroine -- without a ladder -- reaches up and touches the mane of the horse. Unless the horse was grazing for grass, doubtful in a "civil war general" statue, there's no way this character could have reached the mane without a ladder. Did she mean tail? Even if the statue wasn't quite that tall, it's doubtful that someone would have been able to reach the mane, especially if the statue were on a stand of some sort.

And a character dies, but almost immediately they're auctioning off property he inherited -- assuming apparently that the wife inherits all. Hello, anyone heard of wills? probate? I would not want to buy something expensive sold under those circumstances, because for all we know, the wife is not the sole heir.

Still, it was well enough plotted to keep me reading, and I can genuinely say I was surprised by the killer, and it made sense. The plot involves an Antiques Roadshow kind of antiques show, and a drop-top secretary made during the Revolution. Some brief chapters involve a flashback to the time when the desk was made/ Those chapters really should have been edited out because they weren't very well written and had nothing to do with the modern day plot, other than the central motif of this desk.

Set in Richmond, the book at times resembles a travelog -- several restaurants and their menus are described in sufficient detail it was like reading Fodor's (product placement?).

Oh yes, the plot --- an antiques dealer appraiser on the show is killed, and it seems likely that his killer is one of the other appraisers -- but don't worry, you'll have no trouble keeping track of the appraisers because of the alphabetical scheme -- Alice, art; Jessica, jewelry; Borris, books... A journalist is the main character -- she's staying at the same quaint bed and breakfast (with a great menu -- we hear all about it) as a few of the appraisers. She aspires to identify the killer and then imagines herself being praised publicly for her brilliant work. I personally think, however, that a brilliant person would not be trying to identify a killer but instead would be packing a suitcase to get out of town, particularly after the second killing...

Anyway, lots of people seem to like this book better than I did. Maybe if you love antiques, it would help. I find antiques interesting but I'm not a collector. Perhaps what I liked best was the behind the scenes descriptions of the roadshow, which did ring true -- I imagine that's pretty much what it's like. But I did miss the Keno brothers!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2007
Thirty-something, plus-sized collectible queen, Molly Appleby, has always had a soft spot for the antique world. So when she lands a job as a writer for Collector's Weekly, she knows that it's her chance to showcase her knowledge of the collectible's world. And, while she must contend with an oft-times nicotine-crazed boss, the fact that she's constantly on the road covering different collector's stories takes the edge off. This time, however, as Molly heads to Richmond, Virginia to cover the taping of Hidden Treasures, an antiques show, she finds herself wanting nothing more than to stay behind and cozy up with her would-be boyfriend, and co-worker, Mark, attempting to get their relationship off the ground. However, that's not the way things are going at the moment, and Molly instead finds herself tango-ing with a Brit named Garrett, who just happens to be affiliated with Hidden Treasures. As Molly digs into the world of TV, she learns more and more about the world of Hidden Treasures - including some dark-rooted secrets about the cast. However, it's the Civil War exhibit that interests her more than anything else. Molly finds herself salivating over old coins, antique desks, and even a few stranger items. Now, however, people have begun arriving for the show - hoping to make a killing with their so-called antique items. But Molly finds herself torn away from looking over the loot that some of these people own, when she stumbles upon the body of Frank Sterling, the main appraiser for Hidden Treasures. Frank is hunched over in his car on a steaming summer day, dead as an antique door. This is, of course, right after Frank has inspected an eighteenth-century desk complete with secret compartments - which were filled with a strange black, inky substance. Molly is sure that Frank's inspection of the antique desk has something to do with his untimely demise. Yet everyone surrounding her seems to think that her idea is absolutely ludicrous. Still, Molly is not quick to back down. And, with the help of her darling mother, Clara, Molly begins digging around for clues. When another murder takes place, however, Molly believes that something more sinister is at work, and knows that, if she doesn't act soon, her body may be the next one on ice. Of course, in the world of antiques, working on one mystery at a time is not an option, and when Molly realizes that a nosy little twerp named Brittani has taken the position as the new receptionist at Collector's Weekly, she comes to the conclusion that she's purposely sabotaging any messages that Mark leaves for her and vice versa. Now, Molly must figure out a way to fix the jealous-ridden Brittani, while at the same time saving her own hide from an untimely demise - before it's too late.

While the most I have ever collected are comic books, mystery novels, and, in the past, pogs, I found myself instantly drawn in to J.B. Stanley's A FATAL APPRAISAL. Stanley makes the antique/collectibles world interesting with her explanations of secret compartments, and the rarity of certain items. Her information is widespread, covering everything from matchbox cars to old furniture, and, while the reader comes away having learned something about the collectibles world, they in no way feel that they have been spoken down to, or forced to suffer through textbook-like explanations. Molly is an enchanting character. Her ability to get along with just about anyone is admirable, while her observations of everyone around her really make it hard for the reader to figure out who, exactly, the true culprit is. As a food lover, I was also happy to note that Stanley placed some expertise on describing fancy restaurants, and the food Molly consumed, which made me feel as if I were reading a collectible/food mystery; while the backdrop of a quaint Bed & Breakfast really drew me in, and certainly gives readers the opportunity to get a feel for the wonderful town of Richmond. While she is very scarcely featured within the pages, I also must admit that I enjoyed Brittani's character, and hope that we will see Molly face off against her in the future. Brittani's snippy attitude, and condescending voice is entertaining; while her jealousy makes her come off as vicious. I think that Molly and Brittani will certainly have much to discuss about their relationship in the future; and, personally, I can't wait to see how their relationship grows from here. A quaint romp through the world of antiques!

Erika Sorocco

Freelance Reviewer
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 25, 2012
As a book editor myself, I am occasionally surprised and dismayed that a major publisher (Penguin in this case) can choose a half-baked (but probably recoverable) manuscript from all that is on offer and then fail to give it a competent edit and tone up before publishing it. I knew as early as page 30 of J.B. Stanley's "A Fatal Appraisal," when a male character, Borris, starts up a car for a short ride in Richmond and two pages later a female character, Jessica, turns off the ignition of the car that I was in for a bumpy ride in terms of a well-prepared book. Having heard the book presented at a book festival, I thought it would be a good read, with an interesting topic hook and presentation approach. The topic and approach were interesting enough--the topic being antique desks with secret compartments--and the approach was interesting enough too--juxtaposing the making of the desk and its use in hiding a Revolutionary War secret with a modern story of counterfeiting and murder. But the book was clumsily plotted and written--sometimes almost cartoonish and almost always awkward--and the publisher's edit was pretty much nonexistent, both in content and style problems. The use of flashback sections to a mystery at the time the desk was made in Williamsburg during the Revolutionary War was a good idea, but the idea was just dropped after two uses early in the book and then brought back up as sort of an afterthought at the end of the book--an opportunity indifferently used and quickly scuttled to work a double mystery together across time. Lost at the same time was a dimension of joining the mysteries into one related one. I also sort of have to wonder if the "Midwest Book Review" reviewer who gave it a glowing blurb actually read the book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon March 13, 2007
Molly Appleby has been sent to Richmond, Virginia, to cover the taping of Hidden Treasures, a fictional Antiques Roadshow. Once she is settled in her wonderful room at the bed and breakfast run by Mrs. Hewell, she goes to the museum where the show will be filmed. She meets many of the cast members and finds them very helpful. They like sharing their knowledge of antiques. Frank Sterling, the main appraiser, and his wife, are not as friendly. After he inspects a beautiful desk with unique secret compartments, he goes missing. Molly has the unfortunate luck of finding him dead in his car. The police don't think it was murder, but Molly does. Once there is another murder, the police begin to believe it too.

Emily believes the desk holds the key, but can she discover its secret before anyone else is murdered, especially herself?

I really enjoy this series. I'm finding antique themed cozies to be one of my all-time favorites. This is a great series in that theme. Molly is such a down to earth character and she's very knowledgeable in the antiques and collectibles world. Having her write for Collector's Weekly gives her the ability to move around to different locales, thus keeping the series fresh with characters.

This is the second in this wonderful series, and I hope there will be many more! I highly recommend this book and series.
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19 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on April 19, 2007
This is the only book in this series I've read (thank heaven!), but I could not believe the author was serious with all her trite adjectives and cliches. Suits are "neatly tailored." People "peer intently" and "collapse in a heap." She is particularly found of well-worn similes: "Her heart thudded like a drum in her chest." "He gripped his pencil like a vice." "...thought that buzzed through her head like a fly caught between a window screen and the glass." And the most irritating of all, this book could have been subtitled "Antiques Author in Heat." I've never read a mystery that sounded so much like a bad romance novel. "He exuded a powerful aura of sexual intensity and electricity that seemed to surge through his hand." That was her second conquest -- the first "longed to kiss her full, pouty lips." Not bad for a writer "with thick legs." I laughed, but the sad part is I was predisposed to like a good mystery about antiques, but whatever plusses the plot had got buried in the horrible writing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 2, 2009
When and if are there going to be more dead bodies in store for Molly?
I really Love this series and hope that the author continues it.

It's really different than anything out there right now, where the market is saturated with all things Vampire and "Full Moon" challenged. Not to mention all the supposed "Mind Readers" and of course "The walking dead" that don't eat brains for breakfast.

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE the supernatural But I am right. There really is such a thing as TOO MUCH!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 23, 2013
This is the first book in a series of 3 books. I found this in a used bookstore and decided to try it since this mystery was about pottery. It was different than any book I'd read before while still being a cozy mystery. If you have ever made or collected pottery then you would definitely find this book interesting. After reading this book I ordered the next two books in the series. The author has since gone on to write other series but I wish she would write more of this series.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 18, 2014
Having grown up in Richmond and now living in Fredericksburg, I enjoyed this book because of the descriptions of the areas. The story was very good and entertaining. Molly goes to Richmond to attend an antique road show and write about it for her newspaper. While there she bumps into two interesting murders dealing with antiques, and stolen coins. I loved the side story on this one. It was a really good one.
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