by Kit Frazier
Review by Ernest Lilley
MIDNIGHT INK Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 0738709158
Date: 01 September, 2006 List Price $13.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
What do you do when you're a hot young journalist who's lack of judgment when it comes to men lands you at death's desk as the obit writer for the Austin Sentinel and even though you're dying to dig up some real news, your editor likes you just where you are? Well, good friends, ice cream and noir detective movies can help the pain, if they don't kill you first, but there's nothing like getting involved in an international smuggling plot where every one wants to know what you know. In Cauley MacKinnon's case she manages to acquire a collection of guys in the process. Two of whom want her in bed, one of which wants her dead...and all of whom would really like to get inside her head. Cauley MacKinnon, aka the "obituary babe", has some interesting friends. Like Scooter, a high school friend and former football star who retired after getting hurt and now sells exotic pets, except that he's decided to kill himself. Again. Scooter wants to kill himself because his wife is leaving him, but Cauley thinks she can talk him out of it. Unfortunately, SWAT teams have the place surrounded, so Cauley has to ruin a perfectly good pair of jeans scrambling in to get to him, and in the process becomes the focus of a hunt for a treasure lost since the WWII. The Feds want it. An organized crime syndicate wants it. And a really big, mean, and ruthless German with one ear wants it. Cauley periodically bemoans a lack of social life, but suddenly she's got all the attention a girl could want. And it's not all bad either. The FBI guy on the case is a certified US Grade A male hunk, the US Customs agent is cut much more in the mold of international man of mystery, and the German guy is ugly as sin and keeps trying to kill her. Well, two out of three ain't bad.
When Scooter winds up dead anyway, Cauley goes looking for the reason, which goes way beyond trouble with his 50% Argentine, 100% knockout wife. She's pretty sure that Scooter had found himself mixed up in something he didn't like and found out the hard way that there was no way out that doesn't involve someone writing an obit. The real question is whether or not she'll find that the same is true for herself. If she does, manage to stay alive, will she get her man? And maybe off the obit desk in the process? Well, maybe, but her judgment in men has always been a little off, and her boss is in no hurry to find out if he could take the strain of having her running around loose all the time.
The story runs along through murder, break-ins, arson, and the occasional kidnapping while our gal pieces the puzzle together bit by bit. Along the way we meet a terrific collection of supporting players, including a wild bunch of friends that will drop everything to come over and make tapas, blender up some drinks and help her (or loan her) a sexy little number to slip into for some late night intrigue. Equally engaging is her Texan family, ready to take her in when she's got no place to go, and willing to back her up in a fight if it comes down to that. No rundown of the cast would be complete without mention of her cat Muse, or Marlowe, the stray dog that mysteriously came to stay and occasionally save her life. It's a grand ensemble, and whatever they do is entertaining.
By the way, I don't know who comes up with lines like, "don't judge a book by it's cover," because I'm often hooked by the look of the thing. And when the look includes an evocative title, a great pair of gams (ending in an equally fetching pair of hot red stilettos), snuggled up next to a typewriter and a gun, I'm more than willing to start my judging on page one. Of course, if all that come hither cover does is wrap itself around a bad book...well, hell hath no fury like a reader who's been flimflammed. Fortunately in the case of Scoop, author Kit Fraizer has delivered the goods.
Sure it's chick-lit. The cover tips you off by showing part of a gal. I don't know why that's a cliché for the genre, unless it's to indicate that their lives are incomplete, which is my theory, but it is. Now if the part shown wasn't connected to anything else, then it would be another genre. But lets not go there.
Instead, I suggest that you go to Kit Fraiser's Austin for a heaping serving of down home chick-lit-murder mystery Texas style. Scoop left me looking for seconds...which should be coming out soon next may in her next novel, Dead Copy.