Monday, February 21, 2011

Grace Under Pressure (Julie Hyzy)

Part of me wanted to start on Julie Hyzy's White House Chef mystery series, especially since one of the titles, State of the Onion, won the Anthony Award for mysteries in 2009. But somehow the charming description of Grace Under Pressure won out, maybe because I felt I was getting enough of my spy-and-state-secrets stuff with TV shows Chuck and Covert Affairs. So goodbye, White House; hello, Manor of Murder.

Was it everything I expected? Well, yes and no. It wasn't the quaint and charming small-town whodunit I had in mind but one thing I enjoyed about it immensely was its pacing. It might be strange to describe a mystery as leisurely, but that's what I felt from reading this book. Things happen, don't get me wrong, but it is Grace's patient sleuthing that wins the day. As the (former) assistant curator of the Marshfield Manor, Grace is tasked with keeping the museum/inn property running after head curator Abe is murdered in a case of mistaken identity. When she realizes that the local PD isn't quite up to the task of solving such a case, Grace's best recourse is to do as much as she can to help put things back on track. Clues don't just drop into her lap; she has to go through files and folders and work on her day job in between! I thought that this was a welcome break from the action-packed mystery route. I also enjoyed how there was more to discover aside from the main whodunit, and I have to admit that I was more hooked on Grace's family mystery. While this particular plot line isn't exactly rocket science, it still paves the way for future conflicts that might arise in the succeeding titles.

Ms Hyzy doesn't give up all of Grace's stories in just one book. She certainly knows how to whet a reader's appetite: introduced is a hint of a romance (blink-and-you'll-miss-it) between Grace and landscape architect Jack, as well as some unresolved issues between Grace and her sister Liza. I just wish Ms Hyzy had remembered to include Terrence (the manor's head of security) during the last bits; for someone who was very important in the beginning, he all but disappeared towards the end. I do hope to read more about him, as well as the other characters in Grace's life. Yes, even the infuriating ones.

NOTE: This review is done in response to the Whodunit Reading Challenge hosted by Mary, Myra, and Fats at Gathering Books.


GatheringBooks said...

As I was reading through your review, it kind of reminded me of Dan Brown - only with the gender reversal. I may be wrong, though and I may have misread it. I also like how you described the hint of romance (blink and you'll miss it) - sounds like the way romances usually last. haha.

dementedchris said...

I didn't fully realize how many different ways there could be to approach a mystery until I began this reading challenge. It's made me appreciate the appeal that mysteries like Grace Under Pressure can have. Not my usual, but definitely not bad at all! :D