Madeline Fairweather a former child beauty queen is trying to develop her private investigating business and her art career. Married to her best friend, Jerry, they are living in North Carolina. The story establishes that it is a Sunday, yet when Jerry asks her what her plans for the day are she says she's going to go to her office and also have lunch with a friend. The handy person is also suppose to come that day and repair the air conditioner. All this on a Sunday. Hmmmm.
In the first paragraph Tesh introduces 2 ten year old children Denisa Simpson and her best friend Austin Tarrel. Outside of their interest in buffo cards they don't seem to have much to do with the story. Maybe to connect Jerry, with his knowledge and interest in the cards. I have no idea who these kids are or who they belong to. I went back and listened to the beginning again and still don't know who they were. The buffo cards will come up later in the story.
Again, in the first chapter Madeline is sitting on her porch admiring the old house across from her that Jerry inherited and they are having renovation done on. So it sounds like they rented a place in view of Jerry's house. That evening Madeline is referring to the repair of the old upstairs air conditioner and thinking of how she likes the house and chose one particular room for her art projects. Etc. Except now it sounds like they are living in the inherited house. Seems Jerry's uncle didn't do anything to the outside but it was maintained on the inside so they moved in. Very confusing.
In the mail she's reading later in her office she finds a letter saying her art is accepted for an upcoming art show but only gives her until Monday Sept 23 to produce 3 pieces of art for the show. She suspects Jerry is behind her being asked to enter and while she is dialing to call him, Nathan Fenton comes into her agency asking her to break a code in a riddle his uncle left to solve in order to inherit a fortune. The code has to be broken also by Monday the 23. Why he would stop at her office on a Sunday and say "I was hoping to catch you in", made no sense to me. It's Sunday and common sense would suggest she wouldn't be in her office on a Sunday. And why hadn't he called on a weekday and made an appointment?
She later that day meets with her friend for lunch, who introduces her to Rachel, a school teacher. Rachel asks her to do a short class on portrait techniques for fourth graders. Which sounds pretty ambitious to me for fourth graders. Rachel has two daughters Mag and Brauna that she's pushing to be in beauty pageants. Rachel tries to persuade Madeline to coach them for an upcoming beauty pageant. The daughters are not pageant material and the constant taunting of the youngest to her sister of Brauna has a boyfriend drove me nuts listening to her.
On Monday, while Madeline is teaching the fourth graders, a teacher has fallen dead while taking a smoke break. The teacher is not very well liked and no one is sorry she died. Some how and beyond belief Madeline pushes her one woman investigation that the teacher might have been murdered. The teacher died from a heart attack, the autopsy showed she had some heart problems yet Madeline continues to pursue the murder theme when everything points to it being a heart attack. I found this ridiculous that after doctor reports, autopsy reports and proof that it was a heart attack Madeline continues to think it was murder. There should have been some stronger evidence to make Madeline suspect murder. Some doubts or something concrete.
A parallel story about her husband Jerry is going along side the art project and the riddle investigation and the supposed murder. Jerry sounds like a real loser and has defrauded a lot of people in his past with shell games and fake seances. His past is catching up to him and he has to repay some of the people he's defrauded. Jerry is trying to reform his bad ways. Madeline wants him too and wants him to get a regular job. Jerry can be charming and amusing and satisfying in the sack but not good husband material. He's immature and irresponsible. I could see being friends with him but not anything serious.
I give this book 3 stars because the story moves along at a good pace and although the premise of the teachers murder is silly and stretching reality as the riddle gets into kids collecting cards as part of the clue is silly mainly because the man who made up the riddle and treasure hunt was 75 years old and probably would not be very familiar with kids cards as his last days were spent alone in a trailer home, and no young people are mentioned as visiting him. So the story line doesn't hold up good. For me there were too many things going on. The time line and ages are confusing. To many inconsistencies.
Marguerite Gavin is the narrator and I found her voice inappropriate for the character. She sounds too old for the voice of Madeline, but she does alright on the secondary characters. Her voice has a wispy, breathing out sound on the last word of most sentences that is annoying. It's almost blown out on a puff of air and elevated in tone, almost like a question. Sounds more like she's reading a horror story than a young Madeline.
I may not have finished this book if I had not paid for it. But I will not pay for another one. Especially if Marguerite Gavin is the narrator.