But in THE BAD ALWAYS DIE TWICE (a cute title riff off both James Bond and James M. Cain), Cheryl Crane pulls off a read that's so enjoyable that I'm glad to recommend it. She cleverly positions her protagonist, Nikki Harper, in shoes quite a bit like her own: daughter of a Hollywood star (one who lives with fabulous wealth -- was Crane's mother Lana Turner able to live at the top like that?) and trained from childhood to provide a glowing smile to the public, no matter what emotions surge underneath. And Nikki's a real estate agent, which is Cheryl Crane's current career in Palm Springs, California.
But instead of the child to whom frightening things happened and who a victim of an infamous crime even though she successfully took up a weapon, Nikki Harper has the kind of friends who can help her effectively investigate a death. That is, a double death -- a murder that's happened to a man whose widow was already dating again. And if Nikki can't solve it, she and her real estate partner Jessica are likely to lose their commission -- which in Hollywood is Big Money, indeed.
This is a classic mystery, even though the Hollywood ambience and infamous author history are understandably misleading -- plot twists are clever and make sense, character portraits are deft, the pace is held well. Here's a sample, as Nikki takes to her new sideline as a private investigator:
She waited patiently until the young man in the cheap suit jacket glanced up.When the clerk refuses to squeal, insisting that "There's been no murders in the Sunset Tower Hotel, ma'am," Nikki's stumped for a bit. Not to mention upset about being called "ma'am" -- does she really look old enough to be a ma'am?
"May I help you?"
Nikki moved in closer, lowering her voice. "I was wondering if you can answer a couple of questions about one of your guests."
"I'm sorry, but we don't reveal the names of celebrities currently staying with us," he replied, a line he'd obviously memorized. ...
That's because no celebrities would stay here, Nikki thought, but she didn't say it. Instead, she gave him the smile. "This isn't exactly a celebrity. And he's ... was a client of mine."
But because she's polite and patient with just about everyone, a hotel assistant lets her in on what really took place there, and the investigation is off to a good start after all.
And that's the charm of this book: Even with all the luscious distractions of Hollywood life and the gorgeous Victoria Bordeaux (Nikki's famous mother, and smarter than many fans would guess), this high-style real estate agent earns her way to revelations and an eventual surprising solution.
|Author Cheryl Crane|