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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on July 30, 2012
Joanne Lessner's The Temporary Detective is one of those novels you just don't want to stop reading, with characters well drawn and sympathetic enough to easily carry a full series. In the series opener, the quirky, delightfully headstrong Isobel Spice has just landed a temp job for which she is seriously under-qualified. She doesn't let that stop her, though, basically steamrolling the hapless James Cooke -- her supervisor at the temp agency -- into letting her take on said job. Within hours, a very-disliked member of the staff turns up dead... And, of course, Isobel is the one to find her. What follows from there is a fun, clever whodunit with Isobel at the helm as she attempts to keep her new job, maintain her safety, and find the bad guy.

There are a number of things that make this novel a true gem, among them Lessner's deft writing hand, sharp wit, surprisingly complex characters, and a clear understanding of Isobel's world as a struggling actress new to the bright lights of Broadway. Add to that the kind of chemistry that just leaps off the page between Isobel and James, and you have a mystery well worth your time. Through all of that, I was also particularly impressed with the author's ability to move seamlessly from comedy to romance to amateur sleuthing while simultaneously handling deeper issues like James's very recent sobriety with a sensitivity uncommon to the genre. With that said, don't mistake this for a novel with a deeper message; Lessner is delightfully irreverent throughout. This is an easy read that I cruised through in a couple of days, and I recommend it highly for anyone who enjoys cozy mysteries with a healthy dose of romance and a hint of New York edge.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on May 12, 2012
I'm a longtime mystery fan, so I ask for a lot in a mystery: good plot, interesting characters, authentic settings, and some humor. I found all these elements in the charming first installment of Isobel Spice's NYC adventures. Another test: Can I figure it out before it ends? In this case, I didn't, so more points for Joanne Lessner and Isobel! I look forward to the coming follow-ups ... it's always nice to discover a new series in the early stages ... Isobel is a winner!
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Disclosure - I know the author. So I bought the book. It's what one does when a friend writes a book. I'd never read anything of hers, but I had a long trip coming, so why not.

What a delightful surprise! The book starts out like a ditzy comedy, perky central figure, out to conquer the world of theatre without really knowing anything about it. And before the reader can settle in, there's a murder, and interesting peripheral character, and suddenly you're in the middle of a fairly complicated plot, with good background on characters and a writing style that keeps things moving and interesting and fun to read.

I'm not perky myself, so I have some uncertainties about some of the reactions of the heroine - but that's a reader's problem I immediately went to check out her first book - but it's priced out of my budget for the moment. But this is a first-rate bargain (at least on the Kindle) and a GREAT way to spend some fun and relaxing time.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Synopsis: Isobel Spice is an aspiring actress who has recently moved to NYC. While Isobel has an excellent singing voice and acting ability, getting a gig in the city is proving to be harder than she originally thought. In an attempt to go after her dream while still making ends meet, Isobel scours the city for a job at various temp agencies. Unfortunately without any marketable office skills many temp agencies turn her down.

Getting more than a little nervous about her financial situation, Isobel holds nothing back while trying to sweet talk temp agent James Cooke into giving her a chance at a last minute fill-in job at a local bank. James knows that he shouldn't be taking any risks with new recruits. He has a lot on his own plate with being new at his own job, being a recovering alcoholic and then there's that niggling feeling he has that Isobel has a penchant for trouble. Even with his inital misgivings about Isobel's skill he decides to give Isobel a shot at the job.

Unfortunately, James initial bad feelings about Isobel's innate ability to find trouble are realized when she finds the body of an unlikeable secretary in a bathroom stall during a routine fire drill. Now with the police pointing fingers in her direction, a new job to fulfill as well as getting to auditions on time Isobel has more than she can handle.

My Thoughts: When I ordered this mystery for my Kindle I was in the mood for a cozy mystery. Nothing too heavy and the fact that this was the first book in a new series sealed the deal.

Here's what I liked about this book -- It was a light mystery that had an interesting premise and setting. I loved the NYC setting and the behind-the-scenes look at auditions and call-backs etc.

I realize that to read a cozy mystery series usually one has to suspend reality a wee bit because the protagonist keeps finding dead bodies and, honestly how often does that happen? I'm hoping not a lot. I think that setting Isobel up as a temp worker gives the author many opportunities to put Isobel in many varied situations for the future books where she can stumble upon corpses and keep the reader interested.

That said I think that the overall feel I got from this book was just 'meh'. It was just an OK mystery with OK characters but nothing over the top. There were a lot of characters with a twist or two thrown in but none of the secondary characters really stood out and there were a few times when I got confused as to which character the author was referring.

The character with the most depth had to have been James, Isobel's temp agent, who was a recovering alcoholic. It was nice to see, amongst all of the rather blaw characters, a person who stood out from the rest. Yes, his addiction made the storyline a little heavy at times but I think it brought a more authentic feel to James. I also appreciated that the reader gets to have an inside view of the inner feelings of a recovering alcoholic and what they endure on a daily basis.

In contrast, I felt like I never really got to know Isobel. Yes, she's an aspiring actress with a great voice but what else? She really fell flat for me and with this being the beginning of a series I was hoping to really click with the main character right off the bat. Unfortunately that just didn't happen this time around.

I think the author was trying to start some romantic tension between James and Isobel but I just didn't feel it. Nor did I really want to. Why do we always have to have sexual tension between main characters? In this book I would have rather more time spent on ramping up the suspense of the book than wondering will they/won't they?

Would I recommend this book? Yes, if you're in the mood for a very light mystery. I'm hoping that things pick up their pace in the future books because with the setting and Isobel's job prospects being so interesting this book series 'could' be a great little cozy mystery series.

My Rating: 2.5/5 stars

This review is also posted on my blog [...]
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2012
This is a very fun read, sort of a grown-up Nancy Drew for today's twenty-something crowd. A variety of sexual situations and orientations drive the plot, but none of this is taken too seriously, and the big climax where the mystery is unraveled is staged like the closing scene of a farce, mixing suspense and punch lines. A subplot involving AA lends a little gravitas without disrupting the tone. Theater people will especially enjoy all the material about auditions, showcases, and acting classes, although few (if any) aspiring actors behave quite as self-confidently as the novel's heroine. Lessner makes sure all the clues are in full view, yet there is enough comic relief and other threads being woven together that you're never sure which way the plot will go. I'm looking forward to the next Isobel Spice novel.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 20, 2012
This was an amusing novel, if you can suspend your disbelief about one of the main story lines. Isobel, an aspiring actress straight out of college who has just moved to NYC, is desperate for a job to pay the rent while she finds a 'real' acting job. Ignore the fact that Isobel has zero office experience, talks her way into a temp job, and goes from not even being able to answer phones to such a competent office assistant in one day that she's asked to stay on. At least she doesn't find numerous dead bodies.

Otherwise, it was good enough to read the whole book. There is some profanity but it's not every sentence. In fact, I was surprised when a character used the f word halfway through the novel. I don't think the occasional swearing added anything to any character's development and could have been left out.

The writing is very competent--Isobel has a good grasp of grammar and mentally corrects all the grammar errors that others make, which amused my English-instructor alter-ego. I agree with other reviewers that Isobel as a temp worker is a good concept for a series. I expect this author to improve and would read further novels in this series.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 6, 2012
I didn't want to put my kindle down. This book definitely had my full attention. If you like both humor and mystery this is the book you'll want to read. It was also a good price.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 1, 2012
What happens when a plucky, talented young woman comes to New York City to try to break into show business? Why, murder of course! That is, it does if you're Isobel Spice, the main character and accidental detective at the heart of this new mystery. Isobel actually has the gifts and the guts she'll need to make a career on the Great White Way, the only question is how to afford rent and food in the meantime. Her answer? Like so many young people who lack job experience, she starts out as a temp. Unlike many others, however, on her first day on the job she encounters a very dead co-worker in the office ladies room.

What's a girl to do? Get back on the Greyhound and flee? Not if you're Isobel! She throws herself into both breaking into the New York theater world AND solving the murder, with the help of a cast of colorful supporting players, including her roommate (a fellow actress), her supervisor at the temp agency (a recovering alcoholic with a girlfriend who could drive anyone back to the bottle), a few overworked NYPD detectives, and all the borderline personalities on display at the office where she's temping, some of whom she actually suspects of committing the murder.

The Temporary Detective is such a fun book, perfect for a summer reading list, or just for anyone who enjoys a well-crafted mystery. The story moves quickly from scene to scene around the city, as Isobel moves between the worlds of theater and work, getting to know her way around both. The writing is fast-paced and witty, the characters are vivid and entertaining, and the plot is satisfyingly twisty and complex, with a generous sprinkling of creative sexual behavior to keep it fresh. The author also came up with a totally new idea for the conclusion of the story - I really did not see the solution coming! Fortunately for me, I found this book just in time to recommend to my book club for our June selection. I'm glad to see the "Volume 1," this has all the makings of a very successful mystery series. I'm looking forward to reading many more Isobel Spice novels in future.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 19, 2012
Joanne Lessner has created an exceedingly appealing protagonist in Isobel Spice, whose zest for life and for pursuing a career in the New York theater crash into a series of obstacles -- most notably a dead body. The character of Isobel, the vivid portrayal of her life as an acting "wannabe," and the ingenious plot which only she can resolve, combine to make this a very engaging and satisfying read. Fortunately, notwithstanding the word "Temporary" in the title, we are promised more Isobel Spice novels. I'm looking forward to the next!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 30, 2014
Isobel is a recent college graduate that has just moved to New York to follow her dream of starring in a Broadway musical. But before that happens she knows she will have to get a regular job. So she decides to get a job as a secretary through a temp agency. Although she has never worked as a temp or a secretary, or even in an office before, she figured how hard can it be?
Hard. in fact it was murder. And her co-workers varied from unfriendly to downright nasty to her.
Very likable characters and an interesting premise. I'll definitely be reading more in this series.
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