Saturday, August 27, 2016

Board Stiff: A Dead-End Job Mystery, by Elaine Viets

Every "Dead-End Job" mystery by Elaine Viets is fabulous. In each novel, protagonist, former corporate executive, Helen Hawthorn, works at a different job. The jobs, in a hair salon, bridal shop, dog grooming business and other businesses, are described as dead-end only because Helen becomes involved in murder investigations in each job. What Viets gets right every time is the warmth and honesty many of Helen's co-workers (except for the killers) bring to the job and to their friendships with Helen. In "Board Stiff," Viets brings to life the waitress who has graduated from the school of hard knocks, and the board-rental business owner who is under attack. Viets also brings back at least one tough and likeable character from prior books.

Viets creates well developed plots and smart protagonists with unique voices, including her tough, engaging landlady; Pete the parrot; Phil, Helen's handsome, silver haired, PI husband with the ponytail; and Thumbs, Helen's big, six-toed cat. (Disclaimer: I have a bias in favor of Thumbs because I am owned by a big six-toed tabby.) If you love a good mystery involving engaging, likable characters, you will love this book.

Print Length: 289 pages
Publisher: NAL (May 7, 2013)
Publication Date: May 7, 2013
Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

Brain Storm, by Elaine Viets

This book was personal for Elaine Viets. That became clear shortly after I started reading it. Having read most of her other books, the grittiness, the despair, and the pain of the protagonist in "Brain Storm" seemed out of place in a Viets novel. Yet, these elements also make it one of her best books to-date.

Angela Richman is a death investigator, a professional that meets the deceased at the crime scene and documents everything meticulously, without making judgments or drawing conclusions. Half-blinded by persistent, chronic migraines, Angela visits the scene of a deadly car crash caused by a drag race between a BMW and a Ferrari. Both cars were driven by spoiled children of the elite in a wealthy part of Missouri called "the Chouteau Forest." Angela also is a Forest resident, except she resides there because her deceased parents spent their lives as servants to one of the elite families. The victims of the crash, two 16 year old girls, one dead and one disfigured, are from that same family.

Forced by her awful headaches to go to the emergency room, Angela is sent home by an arrogant neurologist, Dr. Gravois, another member of the Forest elite, who discounts the fact that she is on hormone replacement therapy because he claims she is "too fit and too young" to be having a stroke. So Angela goes home, falls asleep and wakes up from a coma 20 days later in the ICU of Sisters of Sorrow Hospital. She learns she has had six strokes and only the talent of a socially inept, outsider, doctor has saved her life. During Angela's long recovery, she has trouble discerning reality from delusion, a problem that becomes dangerous when Dr. Gravois is murdered and she must recover her investigative skills to solve his murder before it is too late.

Angela's story is compelling on many levels. There are still many doctors who misdiagnose women based on obsolete theories taught years ago in medical schools. Women, especially women on hormone replacement therapy, are at risk for stroke, no matter how young and how fit they may be. As she explains in an afterword, in telling Angela's story, Elaine Viets tells her own story, since she too was sent home from the ER with a misdiagnosis only to suffer six strokes shortly thereafter. She tells her story, and Angela's story, well in this riveting first novel in her new series about death investigator, Angela Richman. It deserves many more stars than the five stars I am able to give it.

(In exchange for an honest review, I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.)
* Series: Death Investigator Angela Richman
* Paperback: 320 pages
* Publisher: Thomas & Mercer (August 2, 2016)