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The Cactus Club Killings [Mass Market Paperback]

Nathan Walpow
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 11 1999 Joe Portugal Mysteries
In a city of fast cars and movie stars, these folks are crazy about cacti. Until a killer joins the club . . .

Joe Portugal likes people. But he likes plants better. That's why the former theater actor turned small-time L.A. commercial star is a prominent member of the Culver City Cactus Club. Unfortunately, so is a killer.

The club's president is dead--a poison succulent lodged into her mouth. With a father who knows a thing or two about murder, and police breathing down his neck, Joe can recognize a jam when he sees one. But when he begins searching through a colorful cast of plant lovers, plant dealers, and even international plant smugglers, he doesn't find the answers he needs. Meanwhile, the killer has struck again, working his way through the Cactus Club with a garden variety motive--and a very green thumb--for murder. . . .

Includes The Joe Portugal Guide to Botanical Nomenclature

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

TV commercial actor and plant aficionado Joe Portugal, having discovered the mutilated body of his close friend and fellow Culver City Cactus Club member Brenda Belinski, decides to test his mettle as an amateur sleuth. Assisted by his best friend, interior designer and computer whiz Gina Vela, Portugal begins interviewing a long list of suspected killers, including Brenda's hot-tempered ex, an international plant smuggler and a lovesick wanna-be botanistAall of whom demonstrate debut novelist Walpow's penchant for eccentric characters. When another member of the CCCC turns up dead under equally bizarre circumstances, Portugal fears he may be next on the list. Soon he is fending off a well-dressed Italian, hired by his ex-con father, who's been blatantly tailing him; questions from overworked police officers; and an attack exploiting his terror of wasps. While some readers may tire of the author's gimmicky, if initially amusing, indulgence in weirdness, Walpow keeps the unlikely assassin effectively under wraps until the end.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

About the Author

Nathan Walpow has been collecting cacti and other succulent plants for over twenty years and has over 400 specimens in his collection. He is the president of the Sunset Succulent Society, located in Los Angeles. In 1997 his short story "This Bud's for You" was the first fiction ever to appear in the Cactus and Succulent Journal, the publication of the Cactus and Succulent Society of America.

Nathan has been writing since 1992. Before that, he had ten years of experience as an actor, working on the stage and on television shows such as Moonlighting, and he is a five-time undefeated Jeopardy! champion.

Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Falling in love with cacti Oct. 17 2000
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I do read the reader reviews on Amazon but never thought I would be writing one of my own. This book was so good I thought it needed some more help reaching book buyers, so here goes:
Joe Portugal is a 40 something actor in commercials in Los Angeles who belongs to a club devoted to cacti and succulents. He has the good fortune to be somewhat successful in his career, live in a paid-for house courtesy of his father, and have a best friend (who happens to be female). He has the bad fortune to be be house, plant and bird sitting for the club president when he discovers her dead in the shower with a broken euphorbia stuffed down her throat. Police detective Casillas seems to think Joe knows a bit too much about the victim and type of murder weapon (the euphorbia sap is quite poisonous) and follows Joe about as more murders are committed. It doesn't help Joe's case that the rest of the euphorbia shows up in his greenhouse while the detective is interviewing him the next day.
What I liked most about the book was that no one was phony- even in Los Angeles, people can be normal. Joe wasn't a caricature, neither was Gina (the female friend), nor the police. They weren't supermen- able to take a pounding and then pop up fresh as a daisy ready to run up Mt Everest. Joe's dad is a retired (due to prison time) enforcer who worries about Joe and asks a friend to "watch over" him as Joe continues to investigate the killings. The interactions between characters was lively, funny and true. The situations that develop aren't forced- the coincidences aren't too far out. Maybe it's because I've been suffering thru some really bad fiction recently, I don't know; but this book is a prime example of really good writing, fascinating real characters you get to care about (oh that phrase!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A really good debut mystery April 12 1999
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Joe Portugal convinces his best friend Gina Vela to accompany him when he visits the home of noted UCLA botanist Dr. Brenda Belinski. Joe, renowned for his TV commercials, is the secretary of the Culver City Cactus Club. He promised Brenda, his former lover and president of the CCCC that he would take care of her canaries and her greenhouse while she traveled to Madagascar. After arriving at Brenda's home, Joe, who has a phobia when it comes to wasps, inadvertently soaks Gina with bug spray to avoid a stinging insect. Gina goes to take a shower, but finds the corpse of Brenda with a segment of the deadly abdelkure plant stuffed down her throat.
LAPD Detective Casilles questions Joe, who swears he does not own an abdelkure. When the police find the remaining segment of the abdelkure in Joe's greenhouse, he becomes a prime suspect. When the vice president of the CCCC is murdered, Joe wonders if he could be next even as the police put him on top of their suspect list. With the help of Gina he begins to investigate Brenda's activities to ferret out a killer before he becomes the next victim.
THE CACTUS CLUB KILLINGS is a very entertaining and humorous amateur sleuth tale. The story line is fun as readers get inside Joe's head as he conducts his inquiries. The characters turn this an enjoyable reading experience. Being inside Joe's head is amusing yet it does help propel the who-done-it forward. The support ensemble adds depth. In his debut novel, Nathan Walpow writes a lovable and believable tale that will leave sub-genre fans desiring sequels.

Harriet Klausner
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By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Nathan Walpow has a winner with his Joe Portugal series. Set in contemporary L.A., the book provides an enjoyable view a group of succulent enthusiasts and the world they inhabit. Solving one major problem with many amateur detective mysteries, Mr. Walpow succeeds in providing his hero with a believable lifestyle that allows him time to search for a murderer - he's a totally-lacking-in-ambition actor in commercials living in a house owned, but not inhabited, by his father. In fact, the father and his friends are vibrant minor characters I look forward to learning more about in future titles. Congratulations to Nathan on a promising mystery debut!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable mystery with intriguing characters July 30 1999
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I was a bit hesitant to buy this book, since I'm not really a "plant person". However, I'm certainly not a "horse person", but I always enjoy Dick Francis. Knowledge or enjoyment of succulents is not necessary to enjoy Nathan Walpow's first mystery novel featuring commercial actor Joe Portugal.
The book doesn't really fit into either the hard-boiled or cozy category: Joe Portugal may be an amateur sleuth, but there's lots of action to keep things moving. Wait until you have some spare time, because you won't want to stop reading until you find out whodunit.
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