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How to Host a Killer Party: A Party-Planning Mystery by Penny Warner
Review by Mel Jacob
Signet Mass Market Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780451229304
Date: 02 February 2010 List Price $6.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Set in San Francisco, Penny Warner's new mystery series begins with Presley Parker, event planner, fretting over her first major party for the San Francisco mayor. Alcatraz provides the venue for the mayor's party and surprise wedding to his fiancée, Ikea Takeda. The mayor's announcement to his bride-to-be results in her fleeing the party. The mayor gives chase, but returns empty-handed. A witness reported a woman seen leaving on the ferry and all assume it was Ikea.

At one point, during the planning stage for the party, Presley received a call from the mayor's assistant telling her of Ikea's tantrum over her costume and her threat not to attend. Presley mutters she could kill Ikea. To make matters worse, she finds Ikea a floating corpse. She assumes Ikea fell off the ferry, but the police believe otherwise.

A rival event planner, Andi Sax, a competitor who had managed previous events for the mayor, is found dead. Police begin to question Presley about both deaths, especially after they learn both died from poisoned chocolate. Lab results indicate chocolate items from the party caused the deaths. Then Rocco, the caterer disappears.

Meanwhile a handsome hunk, Brad Matthews, who claims to be a crime scene cleaner, takes an office near Presley's. She struggles with whether to trust him or consider him a suspect. Unexplained accidents occur, and Presley begins to fear for her life.

She discovers several people interested in the future of Treasure Island and who may have tried to influence the mayor's decisions through Ikea. Had the environmental activist, the retired admiral, the developer, Andi's assistant, or some unknown enemy killed both Andi and Ikea?

Presley's mother, now in a nursing home because of the onset of Alzheimer's, provides surprising insight into some of Presley's problems including the admiral's history. Can she trust her mother's memory?

The more she learns of her list of suspects, the more confused she becomes. Warner keeps Presley and the reader guessing. Each chapter is headed with a party planning tip and she includes a piece at the end about a geocaching treasure hunt.

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