Elaine Viets

Finally finished "Murder between the covers" by Elaine Viets. Crazy that it has taken so long as it is one of those books designed to be read in one sitting. This is the second of the "dead end job" series, and though I like it, I don’t like it as much as the earlier "Francesca Vierling" series. The premise of the "dead end job" series is that Helen, the protagonist, is escaping from having to pay alimony to a deadbeat ex-husband, so to aviod being traced she has to take the kind of jobs that pay in cash. Last book she was an assistant in an upmarket clothes shop, in this one she works in a bookstore. The premise is fresh, the writing digestible and the humour witty. However, the plots are pure formula — murder occurs, each character is suspected in turn until at the end the last permutation is revealed as the actual baddie. One reason I like Elaine Viets’ books is their authenticity. Helen’s jobs are jobs that Elaine V has done herself (according to her blurb). Francesca Vierling is a columnist for a St Louis paper, and I just love that character and plot: FV is an "old style" writer who goes out to do interviews and is interested in local characters and stories. The newspaper where she works has moved into the "modern age" of marketing, focus groups, etc. The books cover this conflict of the old and new, office politics and values, in a realistic and compelling way — again with plenty of wit. I find Francesca’s attitudes and values very supportive. EV’s other interest in this series (apart from the murder plot) is the "rehabbers", people who buy up and restore old houses in St Louis. The murders in each book intersect with the rehab theme, and Francesca solves them, sometimes more by luck than judgement, by the end of the book. Again, the murder is the formulaic element but the context of the murders is so well depicted that I find these books addictive. I was grateful to the Dorothy L mailing list (on which EV is a generous and active member) for alerting me to these novels. I do love books set in the publishing world. EV has also written another series of books about a "mystery shopper", which I haven’t yet embarked upon.