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For Better or Hearse: An Annabelle Archer Mystery (Annabelle Archer Mysteries) Mass Market Paperback – February 28, 2006


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The weddings and woundings continue in Durham's second slapstick romp (after Better Off Wed) starring Annabelle Archer, owner of Wedding Belles wedding planning service in Washington, D.C. A posh reception at the Fairmont Hotel is abruptly preempted when Annabelle finds the head chef skewered on one of the event's enormous ice sculptures. Enter Detective Reese, the handsome police officer from Annabelle's first murder 'n' matrimony, and his new competition, Ian, leader of the band scheduled to play the reception. Kate, Annabelle's assistant, heads a long list of wild associates who want to help Annabelle clear the name of her friend Georgia, prime suspect in the murder. As more chefs drop dead of unnatural causes and an array of hellacious brides and mothers-of-the-bride pile up in Wedding Belle's appointment book, Annabelle and company juggle the resulting pandemonium and glean clues from every direction. The final pages bring the entire puzzle into focus, and the answer to whodunit is clever enough to keep most readers guessing. Durham's band of merry miscreants makes up a crackpot—as opposed to crackerjack—team, but the combination works superbly. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

“[M]arries fact and fiction in a smart, snarky, and fun-filled narrative...about as sweet as buttercream.” (Washingtonian Magazine Online)

“As bubbly as a champagne toast, with an unforgettable wedding party. Durham has given her readers another reason to celebrate.” (Elaine Viets, author of JUST MURDERED)

“Cozy readers will love this invitation to a wedding to die for.” (Nancy Martin, author of DROP DEAD BLONDE)

“[W}itty characters and murder amidst matrimony are a match made in mystery heaven...absolutely unforgettable.” (Ellen Byerrum, author of HOSTILE MAKEOVER)
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Product Details

  • Series: Annabelle Archer Mysteries (Book 2)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Avon (February 28, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060739045
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060739041
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.7 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,011,134 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Laura Durham is the author of "For Better Or Hearse" and "Better Off Wed," the first two novels in the Annabelle Archer mystery series from Avon. Like her protagonist, Laura is a professional wedding planner in Washington, D.C. who has planned some of the city's most extravagant weddings and dealt with some of the world's most neurotic brides.

She was inspired to write Better Off Wed because of an overwhelming desire to kill a particularly unpleasant Mother-of-the-Bride, or MOB. Realizing that actually doing the deed would be bad for business, she settled for writing murder instead. The resulting fictionalized expose of the Washington wedding industry has been called "the perfect mixture of mirth and murder."

Laura attended Duke University on a full writing scholarship, graduating in 1993 with a degree in English. Laura's first job out of school was with Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill first as a manuscript reader, then as a publicity assistant, and finally as an editor.

After relocating to Washington, D.C. and realizing that editing government documents wasn't her cup of tea, Laura began planning weddings with lots of enthusiasm and little experience. She started at the bottom of the bridal heap, even doing a memorable wedding outside a prison yard, before working her way up the ladder to become one of the most sought after society wedding planners in the city.

Laura is currently the owner of the D.C. based Engaging Affairs, Inc. and has planned over 400 weddings since she started the company in 1996. She was voted DC's top wedding planner in 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 by Washingtonian magazine and has been featured in numerous wedding publications throughout the country.

Despite a busy writing and touring schedule (and a new baby), she keeps one foot in the bridal business because her real wedding experiences continue to be the inspiration for her books. True brides are always stranger than fiction!

Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By L. Kelly on March 17, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Annabelle Archer, Washington D.C. wedding planner, and her sleuthing friends return in a hilarious second mystery which is even funnier than the fantastic debut in this series. While making last-minute preparations for an oh-so-fabulous wedding reception at the swanky Fairmont Hotel, Annabelle herself discovers the Hotel's cantankerous Chef Henri impaled on the ice sculpture centerpiece for the reception. With signature flair and humor, author Durham provides a wild and funny read following Annabelle's antics in first clearing herself of the murder and then trying to clear her friend Georgia Rhodes. Georgia, an old college friend of Annabelle's, is the head even planner at the Fairmont Hotel and appears to have been framed for the murder by someone. As the story progresses, though, the list of possible suspects grows shorter as the body count grows higher. The ending was quite a surprise in this well-plotted mystery.

In addition to the hilarious cast of characters introduced in "Better Off Wed", we meet some more lovable eccentrics. My favorites were the Harley riding florists who dubbed themselves the "Mighty Morphin Flower Arrangers". Author Durham has a great sense of humor, and this book was a joy to read! The over-the-top weddings featured in this story were really well described.

I notice that Ms. Durham was just nominated for an Agatha award for her first book "Better Off Wed". I felt that "For Better or Hearse" is even more entertaining than the first one. This series is starting to remind me a bit of the Madeline Bean catering mysteries, which is a great series to emulate.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Andrea VINE VOICE on May 27, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Annabelle Archer is a wedding planner. Her assistant is Kate. This book had all the essential people involved in weddings - chefs, florists, videographer, hair designer, brides, mother of the brides, etc.

Murder(s) take place. Annabelle and her friends are determined to figure it all out. Characterization is vivid, so you feel you know these people. I love Annabelle. Her nutty neighbor Leatrice is interesting.

At the end of the book, Annabelle pieced it all together. She was clever to figure it out. She figured out some interesting facts, and it all pieced together interestingly. The ending was very interesting and clever. I was satisfied.

This book kept reminding me of a cozy wedding I attended several years ago. So those memories enhanced the atmosphere of the book for me, even though it would have been cozy and fun anyway.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Spikewriter on April 1, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I was very lucky to discover the first Annabelle Archer mystery ("Better Off Wed") just a few weeks before "For Better or Hearse" was released, so I've had the chance to read both very close together.

Many mysteries today have a "hook" to tie the books in a series together, but in this case, it seems to work betterthan most. Annabelle is first and foremost a wedding planner and all of her detecting is done against that background. Annabelle doesn't go looking for trouble but falls into it, trying to get enough information to clear an associate or friend rather than finding the killer (that job falls to Detective Reese).

This is an enjoyable series with which to pass a few hours, though I did have a few quibbles. One is that Detective Reese is far less in evidence than in the first book, and the author seems to point us toward a potential new romantic interest for Annabelle, but nothing really comes of it and, at the end, Reese indicates he might be interested after all. This muddies the water somewhat, but was not enough to impact my enjoyment.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Detra Fitch VINE VOICE on March 1, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
For the second time Annabelle Archer has found trouble. Annabelle is a top D.C. wedding planner with the reputation of pulling off beautiful weddings among high-society. This time the wedding is at the elegant Fairmont Hotel. All falls into chaos when the widely-despised Chef Henri is found dead, impaled on the claw of a tiger ice carving.

The police believe Georgia Rhodes, Fairmont's catering executive, is the culprit. Annabelle disagrees. Of course this means Annabelle is going to do some "investigating" on her own, much to Detective Reese's dismay. And her suspect lists just keeps on growing! Anyone who has EVER met Chef Henri is glad that the man is dead.

**** This story is full of vivid and colorful characters guaranteed to please one and all mystery fans. I would never have guessed that there was so much stress involved in planning someone else's wedding. But Annabelle gives us just a taste of the crazy clients that wedding planners seem to get. Readers will find this story to be fast paced and highly entertaining. I am looking forward to learning what kind of trouble the future hold for Annabelle and her quirky friends. ****

Reviewed by Detra Fitch of Huntress Reviews.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I loved Ms. Durham's 1st book. I didn't expect it to be good....Washington, D.C. background, high society, dirty politics... and all that,but it was great and so it followed that I'd pick up a copy of "For Better or Hearse." My favorite character in the whole book is Richard....hands down. He makes the book! I have friends who work in the food industry and agree that there are more chef's out there like Chef Henri than Emeril....but we don't know what he is like behind the scenes so......The book was not as good as her 1st, but enjoyable due to the cast of characters who are her side-kicks, except Leatrice, who does have to go.....annoying, annoying! I also have to wonder if all her brides are the upper crust of society? It would be nice to see a middle class wedding planned by Annabelle. Surely....some not so wealthy people do live in and about Washington? Just a thought. This book is an easy, fun read, but you'll probably guess the "murderer" before the middle of the book.
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