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5.0 out of 5 stars A pleasing Christmas tale
Sugarplum Dead is one of the best books in the Death on Demand Series. In this edition, Annie Laurence is reunited with her long-lost father, and discovers her step-sister Rachel. Rachel is living with her mother at the home of her aunt, Marguerite Dumaney, a former movie star. Annie's father, Pudge, is visiting for the holidays. When Pudge's ex-wife is found dead, he...
Published on July 15 2002 by Karen Potts

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3.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good entry in this series
After having read -- and been annoyed by -- three previous entries in this series, I had sworn I'd never read another Death On Demand mystery. But I was intrigued enough by some of the reviews of this book to give it a whirl. And it is in many ways much, much better than some of the other Carolyn Hart books I've tried.
I have never felt like I was being given a...
Published on Jan. 27 2002 by Shelley Mckibbon


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5.0 out of 5 stars A pleasing Christmas tale, July 15 2002
By 
Karen Potts (Lake Jackson, Texas) - See all my reviews
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Sugarplum Dead is one of the best books in the Death on Demand Series. In this edition, Annie Laurence is reunited with her long-lost father, and discovers her step-sister Rachel. Rachel is living with her mother at the home of her aunt, Marguerite Dumaney, a former movie star. Annie's father, Pudge, is visiting for the holidays. When Pudge's ex-wife is found dead, he and Rachel are the chief suspects. A complicating factor is that Marguerite is in the clutches of an unscrupulous man who is stealing her fortune under the guise of enabling her to communicate with her dead husband. Her immediate heirs are all present for the Christmas season, and all of them want to inherit her money. This is a well-crafted and ingenious mystery which has the added charm of acquainting readers with Annie's long-lost family.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good entry in this series, Jan. 27 2002
By 
Shelley Mckibbon (Halifax, NS) - See all my reviews
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After having read -- and been annoyed by -- three previous entries in this series, I had sworn I'd never read another Death On Demand mystery. But I was intrigued enough by some of the reviews of this book to give it a whirl. And it is in many ways much, much better than some of the other Carolyn Hart books I've tried.
I have never felt like I was being given a chance to really KNOW the sleuths, Annie and Max. In previous books, the author kept stepping between me and them and insisting on how I should think -- "Annie is like THIS. Max is like THAT." In the end, I was told so much that I should have been shown, that I felt nothing for the sleuths at all. Hart still interferes, insisting on character traits she should be demonstrating, and there is far too much about what Max and Annie look like, as opposed to what they are like. But Annie's concern for a teenage girl comes through pretty well, and I found myself believing it. Likewise, her reluctant feelings for her estranged father eventually became believable when Hart stopped insisting.
I didn't buy the estranged father's excuses for why he'd been gone so long any more than some other reviewers have. If you really, really want to know where your child is, and only one person on earth can help you, you go to that person and make a nuisance of yourself. You don't phone and write a few times and then give up. This element of the plot was thin. Max's behaviour ("You think YOUR dad was bad? Let me tell you about MINE!") is insensitive, and I would have been more convinced if the lovebirds had had a knock-down fight over it, with a suitable reconciliation later. Hart, however, does not seem interested in delving very deeply into this relationship, and to that extent she leaves her sleuths as two pretty, but rather empty, shells.
Max's mother, on the other hand, is a hoot in this novel. And I usually agree with readers who find her irritating and unbelievable beyond words. I don't quite see why Annie, who knows Laurel is nuts, is suddenly so worried about her. And when a minor character frets that seances and such "aren't God's will," I wasn't convinced by Hart's pious disclaimer that this minor character represented "true goodness," and would be ignored at peril. I don't like people telling me what is and isn't "God's will." It too often leads to boycotts of libraries that carry books about little English wizards, and protesters explaining why God hates various sexual orientations. Hart's tendency to sermonize isn't pronounced in this novel, but that one jarred.
There are fewer extraneous references to every mystery ever written in this than in most of the "Death On Demand" novels, which is a relief. Annie's first scene features lists of other books and authors, but then Hart gets this urge under control for most of the story and mainly sticks to the point.
The real problem with this mystery is, unfortunately, the mystery itself. Hart introduces the potential victims and suspects in the first chapter, then ignores most of them in favour of Annie and her personal life for the next hundred or so pages. Which means that by the time someone is finally offed (about halfway through the book) I had forgotten who these people were -- and the explanation of their relationships was confusing. At one point, it sounds as if everyone is siblings. Then we see that some are one character's stepchildren. Then the stepmother's sister sounds as if she's actually a sibling of the stepchildren... It was confusing. And since she doesn't spend any time developing these characters, it was hard to care who did it or why. There is an obvious, overly-clever solution to the mystery, and that turns out to be it.
Hart also needs to learn a little more about what personal information is and isn't freely available on the Internet, because she has a public librarian performing feats of spying the CIA might envy. As a librarian, I am dubious. And doing things the easy way like this doesn't help the book -- the sleuths don't need to be clever or to interview the suspects, they only need a magical computer. At one point, Annie muses that conversation is a better way of gatherin information than clicking a mouse. If only Hart really believed that, it would have improved her subplot. (Hart has a habit in this book of writing in unexplained technical miracles -- at one point, someone "rigged the lights' so they'd go out at a crucial juncture. As far as I can find, we are never told HOW.)
Overall, better-written than most of this series, and with more humanity. A middling, but reasonably enjoyable, read.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Something of a disappointment, Jan. 25 2002
By A Customer
I really like these characters, Annie, Max, Laurel, Dora, Emma et al, and the sense of place, Browards Rock is great. I don't really read these for the mystery aspect, so I wasn't looking for that, but this started with a really great premise, Annie's long lost father. That story line somehow got lost in the confusion. Not one of Hart's best, but an enjoyable read for a rainy afternoon, with some great coffee and chocolate rasberry brownies.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Pretty Dull, Jan. 9 2002
By A Customer
I listened to this (unabridged) on tape, and found my mind wandering a lot. These books are usually a fun read, but this one limped along. If I had read it, I don't think I would have made it through to the end. I thought the premise and characters were cliche and the plot was contrived, and I was very disappointed in the element of Annie's long-lost father. Having had an absentee father of my own, I looked forward to more mystery and conflict from this situation.
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5.0 out of 5 stars SUAGAR PLUM DEAD, Jan. 2 2002
It's Christmas Mystery you can't afford to miss! In this sensational afternoon killer.
Annie's dad make a Christmas arrival that set Annie in a mood more adept to scrooge than Santa and when Laurel her mother-inlaw starts having conversations with ghosts Annie has more than Christmas Christmas Cookies on her already fulll plate she sleuths and relies on her husband Max to help charm them into solving this holiday crime spree.
Curl up with a cup of warm tea, or coco and visit max. Laurel and Annie on Broward's Rock. You won't be sorry. max & Annie are a delighful duo that put Nick and Nora Charles to shame!
However beware of the Mother-inlaw.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Nice Holiday Novel, Dec 25 2001
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Though unfamiliar with the author's work, I must admit this is a very enjoyable novel. When a friend suggested it, I thought "Oh, why not?" and am very glad I did. The plot follows Annie Darling, who owns a mystery novel shop (Death on Demand) and her husband Max. When Annie's father finally shows after deserting Annie and her mother so many years ago.. the plot thickens. Annie is thrown in the middle of a (somewhat corny, and only slightly suspenseful) mystery with bland clues and very few plot twists. I was a bit surprised by the ending, but looking back, I really wasn't paying much attention. I was trying to be a "filter" and not a "sponge" and in this case, it was a bad decision.
Well worth reading, but more a work of fiction than a murder mystery novel.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful Christmas story!, Dec 15 2001
I really enjoyed this latest offering of Carolyn Hart's. I liked the addition of some of Annie's family into the mix and I really didn't think it was too improbable for the most part. It did leave me craving raspberry brownies and on a quest to make them! The book really puts you in the Christmas spirit plus the plot gives a great twist towards the end. I was completely wrong on my guess for the murderer!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good, But Not Great, Dec 14 2001
By 
Erika Sorocco (Southern California, USA) - See all my reviews
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First off, this book was definitely interesting, and could hold my attention, but it wasn't great.
It took over 160 pages for anyone to get murdered, so you had to read about relationships and romance. Relationships between the main-character (Annie Darling) and her estranged father, Annie and her estranged step-sister, etc. Once someone does get killed it becomes somewhat boring. I knew who the killer was from the beginning. Also, the whole mystery is somewhat cliched. I do think the author is a good writer, and has potential to succeed, just not with this book.
As for the plot, Annie Darling runs Death On Demand, a mystery bookstore. Annie's father (Pudge) and step-sister (Rachel) find her and soon Annie is swept into a spooky mansion filled with murder, hatred and deceit. Once Happy (Rachel's mother) gets murdered, Annie is determined to get her father off the hook, and solve the case.
Overall, this wasn't a horrible book, but if you're looking for a great holiday mystery try some by Valerie Wolzien.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Light Mystery. Not one of her best, but good., Dec 1 2001
By 
apoem "apoem" (Bosque Farms, NM USA) - See all my reviews
I usually enjoy Carolyn Hart mysteries. They are easy to read and enjoyable. There is not a lot of angst or great horror. This one lived up to my expectations in some regards, yet was a disspointment in others.
First the positive: I like the mystery itself. I thought the ending was different than many authors would have used. I liked that. The characters are continuations of ones in her previous books and yet this book can stand on it's own. As always her mother in law is funny and offers a sence of the ridiculous for a reason. I appreciate that. I also appreciated that Annie did forgive her dad to a degree and try to get to know him now. At some point we all have to make that decision to move on or to dwell on the past. I think this was handled well. It wasn't the main story and therefore not a lot of time was devoted to this theme, which I think might dissapoint some readers.
The negative: The only unrealistic thing about this book was all of a sudden seeing your dad and finding out you had a step sister on this small island where everyone knows everyone. If the island had been bigger it might have worked. However, it just seems inconceivable to me that not once would Annie have seen this girl or known the connection she had to this girl. However, as I stated, this is not the main part of the story and is easily overlooked.
I enjoyed this book. It was not my most favorite Carolyn Hart book, but it was good. I'm not sorry I read it.
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3.0 out of 5 stars I know this series is popular, but..., Oct. 28 2001
By 
K. L Sadler "Dr. Karen L. Sadler" (Freedom, Pa. USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Sugar Plum Dead (Hardcover)
I've picked up Hart's mysteries before and enjoyed them for what they are worth...very light mysteries, with unsubstantial plots and not very 'deeply-drawn' characters. This one was probably the least enjoyable I've read, and since I like my books a little more realistic and with more substance and good writing, I doubt I will be back to this particular author.
Hart means well, and I know she has a big following. But as another reviewer has mentioned, Hart really expects the reader to swallow a very poorly written and poorly plotted reason for the female protagonist's father for being missing in her life, and then gives an improbable reason for him showing up again, along with a step-sister she didn't know existed? Not only that but she had this sister apparently living on the island too? And when she sees the girl, she recognizes familial facial features?
This island is a place where most people know each other except during tourist season, yet there seems to be a young doppelganger on the island with features similar to Annie's?
Sorry, doesn't make sense to me...
I had no problems figuring out who the probable suspect was, since there were too many obvious suspects, and I took a violent dislike to the character immediately. A mystery is a good one for me that retains a little of the 'mystery' until the very end! Once again, I felt that this was a case of an author getting too familiar with her characters, too comfortable with her audience, and she just rattled off the book as fast as possible.
I am sure my review won't discourage those who are enamored of this type of light reading. Not enough literary skill or 'meat' for my taste.
Karen Sadler,
University of Pittsburgh
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