Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Book Review: Choke by Kaye George

First, a disclaimer. I know Kaye George. She's a member of the Guppies and we've met in person when she came to Tucson. "Choke" is her first published novel, although she has previously published several short stories, one of which was nominated for an Agatha. The paperback edition of "Choke" is published by Mainly Murder Press, but this publisher allows the author to retain ebook rights (a mistake on their part in my opinion). I read "Choke" on my nook, which I purchased when it was offered as a free selection.

Imogene "Immy" Duckworthy has always dreamed of being a detective. She spent much of her childhood reading mysteries and is obsessed with detection to the point of naming her daughter Nancy Drew Duckworthy. She lives in a trailer with her mother, Hortense, a retired librarian, and works as a waitress at the diner owned by her Uncle Huey. At least, she's doing this as the book opens, but not for long. She's decided that it's time to pursue her dream of being a PI and quits on the same day as another waitress does, leaving just Clem, the cook, and Baxter, the busboy.

When she tells her mother that she quit because Uncle Huey pinched her bottom (He didn't do that to her. He did that to the other waitress.), Hortense storms off to give Huey a piece of her mind. The next morning, Huey is found murdered, making Hortense the prime suspect.

Of course, Immy resolves to prove her mother's innocence, starting off her career as a PI.

Immy reminds me a bit of Stephanie Plum. She plunges into action without quite thinking through the consequences. She decides she needs disguises to do her investigations and makes several trips to a costume shop for this purpose. No one is fooled by these disguises and her misadventures with them provide some amusing scenes.

The characters are types the reader will recognize. Baxter is the seductive bad boy and Immy agrees to some things that she knows she shouldn't. His dreamy eyes and sexy body are persuasive agruments. Hortense is quirky in her own way. She uses an erudite vocabulary, sometime to the point where it slowed me down as I attempted to translate, except when under stress, when she reverts to simple speech. She's obese, a condition which resulted from the death of Immy's father in an auto accident. Food is her substitute for love and plays a big part in her life. There's Ralph, the nice guy police officer, who has always had a crush on Immy and keeps wanting to have a date with her.

The biggest problem I had with this book was that it kept feeling like a YA most of the time, but there were things about it that weren't YA. For one thing, Immy is too old a heroine for a YA novel. She's in her twenties with a daughter. There were some scenes that didn't feel YA. I'm having a hard time defining specifically what these were, but there were several times I stopped and thought the tone had changed.

I also have to say I'm not a fan of Stephanie Plum, so this kind of cozy mystery is not exactly my cup of tea.

On the other hand, there are some lovely descriptive passages about Texas. The pacing is very well done. The book keeps moving with no dead spots in the plot. All in all, an engaging, light read that I found enjoyable.
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