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Death by Sarcasm: (A Hardboiled Private Investigator Mystery Series) (Mary Cooper Mysteries Book 1) Kindle Edition
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"A smart new detective story stuffed with sharp prose and snappy one liners."
"Mary Cooper is tougher than Stephanie Plum (by Janet Evanovich), smarter, and would reduce her to tears in under 30 seconds."
--St. Augustine Record
About the Author
- Publication date : May 31, 2014
- File size : 2907 KB
- Print length : 258 pages
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Language: : English
- Lending : Enabled
- ASIN : B00FFH1QEW
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #416,882 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The heroine of "Death by Sarcasm," Mary Cornell, is a fan of the caustic putdown, and she comes by it naturally. Her uncle Brent is, or more precisely, was, a successful comic whose body was found outside a low-end comedy club after being murdered in a rather gruesome manner. Mary decides to investigate the murder, which involves her going to various seedy clubs and getting in snide remark duels with everyone she meets and antagonizing nearly every other character in the book. Not surprisingly, the body count rises steadily as the book goes on, with Mary herself the target of the killer.
There’s actually a pretty good mystery at the heart of “Death by Sarcasm,” and when Mary takes time out from her sarcastic replies to investigate the case, the book is rather interesting. As in a lot of detective stories, the key to the mystery is buried years in the past, when Uncle Brent was a struggling young comic who hung out in the same house with some of the other characters in the book. Now, in addition to Brent, some of his former housemates start turning up dead, and Mary tries to track the rest down to either find the killer or prevent more killings. The sections where Mary investigates and tries to get people to reveal what happened decades earlier are by far the best in the book, showcasing Ames’s writing skills.
Those skills do not, however, extend to the many comedy routines in the book. Mary is the sort of character who doesn’t feel comfortable unless she’s cutting down whoever she’s talking to in almost every single sentence. Imagine spending 200 pages with a considerably more attractive version of Don Rickles and you get the idea. If “Death by Sarcasm” were a reality-based book, in which readers were given the impression that the characters were operating in the real world, this would be a fatal flaw. As it was, I kept wondering at times how Mary thought that she would get any information or assistance from anyone who had just been used as her punching bag for an entire chapter. But author Ames puts enough totally bizarre scenes in the book (elderly women serving as a harem for one character; senior citizens dressing in Richard Nixon masks as they pull off a crime) that readers know to take what they are reading with a grain of salt.
The biggest flaw with “Death by Sarcasm” is that the book and the lead character are seldom as funny as the author thinks they are. The ratio of funny to non-funny jokes is, at best 1 in 5. And, I realize that humor is very subjective, but too many of Mary’s putdowns struck me as simply dumb, and the accumulated weight of them left me with the same feeling I sometimes get in a comedy club with a bad headliner… looking for the exit.
I liked enough about “Death by Sarcasm” to give it a marginal, three-star rating (much closer to 2.5 stars, which I would have given it if I could). The central storyline is quite good (although its serious nature clashes with a lot of silliness in the book), and the material about the comedy clubs and performers felt authentic and interesting enough to keep me involved. But, if author Ames wants to continue writing books with Mary Cornell as his main character, he needs to get some better jokes, or readers are likely to give him the hook.
I should have known. Right then and there. But the book was free, so I decided to give it a try. I'm not sure the author knows the definition of sarcasm. He seems to think it's delivering tired one liners in incredibly inappropriate settings. After 4 chapters I had to give up. None of the elements of an engaging book seemed to be present: no character development, plot wasn't interesting (I didn't particularly care what came next), locale (I guess it was LA) and I can't say about pacing as I gave up early.
Now I usually don't review books I give up on because I assume it's personal taste. For example when there is too much emphasis on romance and not enough on mystery. But in this case I'm making an exception. This isn't personal taste. This book is just bad.
Mary's uncle, Brent Cooper, was an aging stand-up comedian, and when he's found murdered behind a seedy comedy club, Mary is called to the scene. Mary's reaction to the crime is witty and sarcastic--just what her late uncle would have expected and relished.
As usual, the police tell Mary to butt out and not to interfere with their investigation. And, as usual in novels like this, Mary ignores their warnings and pursues her own investigation. She is usually about one step ahead of the cops and danger follows her everywhere. Soon there is another murder and it becomes apparent that some deranged killer has a group of aging comics in her or her sights.
Mary plunges ahead, unconcerned about her own safety, and dealing with virtually every situation she encounters in the same sharp, comic way she dealt with her uncle's death. Underneath, it's pretty clear that Mary has a softer and more sensitive side, but she's damned if she's going to let you see it.
This is a book that will appeal to readers who like their crime fiction on the comic and less-intense side, and there are plenty of laughs to even out the more gruesome crimes that follow Mary though her adventure.
The sarcasm noted in the title comes through more through tired, old one-liners and tasteless sexist comments. Instead of finding a female lead character, I found a stereotypical male private investigator of an earlier era.
The plot had some substance and interest, and was generally well-written, but the humor and sexism got tiresome very quickly.
This book was a free Amazon download.
Top reviews from other countries
So this world is a long way from reality; there has to be a massive suspension of disbelief both in the characters and the situations. As Mary follows the various leads she leaves a trail of dead old people, but do we care? At one point she is set upon by a gang of old men with Nixon masks who seem intent on raping her. Do we care? Can we believe it?
Apparently she finds the murderer who is mad, of course (and not a bit funny), but how she finds her and why the murderer murders is unclear. But I ask again, do we care? This is one of a series, so there’s plenty more sarcasm-themed plots to enjoy (endure). Did someone say sarcasm was the lowest form of wit. Too right. 2 stars for pace and brevity.