This week the Doon Review is checking out the Sleuth & Setting of Dying to Get Published-Book One in the Jennifer Marsh Mystery Series by Judy Fitzwater. This first book was published originally by Ballantine and the author reports that she’s currently working on the 7th novel of the series. As a cozy fan, I was surprised that I’d missed this series, but I’m now happy to rectify it. In the Doon Review, I discuss Book One for readers so they can decide if the sleuth and setting falls into their favorite type of cozy.
Determined novelist Jennifer Marsh has concluded the reason none of her eight novels has been published is because she hasn’t delivered the nitty-gritty needed when describing murder in her stories. When Jennifer’s hopes are at a low point she “goes a little loopy” and decides to not only plot out a new crime, but then to act it out in person to gain instant notoriety. When she’s stumped for plotting techniques, her go to team is her writer’s support group. Jennifer turns out to be quite savvy and manages to provide the reader with multiple laugh out loud moments. Jennifer lives on the cheap working as a caterer with her friend Dee Dee Ivers, so she can have time to write. If you don’t like a little romance blended into your mystery, this series may not be for you, but the romance isn’t overdone or hot.
The reader meets Jennifer Marsh in a jail cell reflecting on how she’s arrived in the last place on earth she wants to be. It’s clear she’s not a sleuth in real life, but she writes mysteries so she understands the process. The character has a very strange habit of thinking about and talking to a future in utero baby that is not yet fertilized. She’s chosen a unisex name for this wannabe fetus, Jaimie. Women who were plodding along in careers only to wake up one morning with a baby alarm clock ringing will understand poor Jennifer’s situation. She’s 29 and she hasn’t got a man in sight plus, the baby alarm has made her a bit crazy, IMHO. Jennifer also has a dreamy habit of falling into the character of her own heroines when making her decisions and, believe me some of them are entertaining when she turns sleuth in real life. We get an open glimpse into the angst-ridden writer’s mind, and I have to admit it was a fun read and not a dark hole.
The funny thing about this book is a dead person doesn’t make it into the book until much later than expected. In the interval Jennifer gives us her four rules for finding a real person to murder, so her books will have the “realism” element. 1)the world must improve with the victim’s absence 2)the death should be symbolic to the people the victim has made suffer 3) victim must be childless and spouseless 4) the victim must be a true career S.O.B. Jennifer concludes her victim must be the heartless literary agent who viciously rejected her. Not to worry, she wakes from her trance before she crosses the line between fantasy and murder. The mean agent dies anyway and guess who is the prime suspect? Overall, Jennifer is an interesting character, and she’s shadowed by a strong supporting cast–all writers, don’t you know.
Her romantic interest, Sam Culpepper, is a reporter for the Macon Telegraph. Sam believes a local TV reporter, Kyle Browning at Chanel 14 was murdered, and didn’t take his own life by jumping off a building. He’s doing an undercover investigation at a wedding Jennifer and Dee Dee are catering. When he notices that a colleague of the dead reporter took Jennifer’s catering card for his own party, Sam asks Jennifer to help him find out if Browning was pushed off the roof. Sam is also planning to write a true crime story about Browning, and naturally Jennifer is hooked into helping him. Sam plays the romantic side kick well, but he doesn’t help Jennifer plot books, solve crimes, or rescue her. He’s the hot stand by and he’s got the right contacts with the police when she’s in jail.
The writing group is a cool support network for a sleuth. Each writer is unique and writes in a different genre. Each woman is memorable and provides help in their own way.
Jennifer lives in Macon, Georgia, but she travels back and forth to Atlanta. For me, the setting was a big let down. If I wasn’t already familiar with Atlanta and the surrounding counties, I wouldn’t have had a setting to visualize. Absolutely nothing unique to the area is tossed in. Hopefully, in future books the author does a better job.
Dying to Get Published is a funny story with a strong cast and satisfying ending. This sleuth strikes out on her own and gets herself in and out of trouble. I for one want to know if Jaimie ever sees the light of day. You can’t go wrong with a cozy that makes you laugh out loud.