Saturday, January 9, 2016

A Fairy Tale Fatal Mystery, Book 2 - Cinderella Six Feet Under

The second entry into this unique little mystery series was just as good, if not better, than the first.  As a fan of the various takes on fairy tale characters (loved the Fables comic series and have thoroughly enjoyed most of the Once Upon a Time television series), it comes as no surprise that I would enjoy a mystery series that is fairy tale related.

The first book, Snow White Red-Handed, was more of a set-up mystery.  Yes, there was a murder, yes there was humor, and yes, there was some ingenious ways to bring the fairy tale mythos of Snow White into a real world setting (albeit in the mid-1800s).  But there was also a lot of "getting to know" the characters.  Ophelia Flax, the American variety hall actress who has made her way to Europe with her somewhat dim-witted actress friend, Prudence "Prue" Bright (notice the juxtaposition in her name and her nature); and Gabriel Penrose, the university professor who has more than a passing interest in fairy tales and their historical realities (and who also happens to fall head over heels for our dear protagonist).

With the characters and their histories now firmly established, this second mystery gets right into the action, as Ophelia and Prue arrive in Paris to find Prue's long-missing mother, Henrietta, who is believed to have married a thought-to-be wealthy husband.  Only, they find her missing, and no one seems to care.  Not the husband.  Not the two step-daughters.  Not the irritable man-servant.  They are all more concerned with the dashing prince, who has arrived in Paris and is throwing a lavish party to make a very important announcement that will forever change one young woman's life.

The only problem is - upon their arrival, Ophelia and Prue stumble upon the corpse of a young woman outside the house.  A young woman who bears a very uncanny resemblance to Prue!  But if no one cared about Henrietta's disappearance, they seem to care even less for the identity of this poor murdered girl.  Even the police care very little about her, not even bothering to learn her identity.

The author weaves a very intricate, well-written mystery with loads of suspects, all with valid motives and opportunity.  Maia Chance brings her characters to life with humor and sophistication, and breathes depth into even the most minor of characters within the story.  As with the first book, it is next to impossible to figure out whodunnit, until the story starts racing to its conclusion.  Which, for me, is always the sign of a great writer, as it tells me the author is not just going through the ropes with her story.  However, anyone considering picking up this series should be warned.  It is very dense.  Just shy of 300 pages, Chance provides striking details of her characters and settings, and while the story is certainly fast-paced and flows smoothly, it is written from a British point-of-view and often engages not only in flowery wording, but also utilizes a number of British colloquialisms that may not necessarily be familiar to American readers. Me, though, I thoroughly enjoy it!

And just as she did in the first one, Chance manages to intermingle the spotlighted fairy tale story into the murder mystery itself.  This time, it is Cinderella.  Not only is there a ballet of Cinderella's tale being performed in Paris within the story, but poor Prue takes on a semblance of Cinderella herself.  She is scorned by her step-sisters, she is the poor girl who wants to be the belle of the ball, and she finds herself more often than not stuck in the basement kitchen scrubbing pots in a mouse-infested kitchen (since the fat cat just lays around the house and never tries to catch any of the mice).  She does ultimately get to wear the gown and go to the ball - - but I won't spoil it by telling you what happens at the ball.  That would certainly ruin all of the fun of getting there!

Definitely looking forward to the next book in the series - Beauty, Beast, and Belladonna.

RATING:  9 sparkling stomachers out of 10 for spinning a new twist on the story of Cinderella and giving me an amazingly enjoyable read.

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