Monday, December 17, 2018

CHOP IT UP: Mayhem & Mass by Olivia Matthews

"A Los Angeles transplant, Sister Louise “Lou” LaSalle feels right at home in Briar Coast, New York. After all, her beloved nephew, Chris, works at the college founded by her congregation. But while Sister Lou has always played by the rules, she’s about to have her faith in herself tested—by murder . . 
Sister Lou expects some pushback when she invites her friend, Maurice Jordan, to be the guest speaker for the St. Hermione of Ephesus Feast Day presentation. The theology professor is known far and wide for his controversial views. What she’s not prepared for is finding him dead in his hotel room, bashed over the head. 
When the local deputies focus on the members of her congregation as suspects, Sister Lou takes matters into her own hands. Against Chris’s wishes, she teams up with a cynical local reporter to delve into Maurice’s life. The unlikely partners in crime-fighting uncover a litany of both devotees and detractors. And though it might take a miracle to find the killer, Sister Lou vows to carry on until justice prevails . . ."
1. The victim was murdered in a hotel room. Yet, not one time did anyone suggest anything about checking the cameras for who entered his room. This is 2017, right?
“’There wasn’t any sign of a struggle.’  Fran sat back in her seat.  A faraway look entered her eyes as she seemed to recall the scene in Maurice’s room.  ‘He must have let the person into the room.  The perp hit him when his back was turned.’”
2. The culprit was obvious. And it’s all telling in the repeated emphasis on hair color. Only two individuals share the same hair color. This is vague. But my point is that there is little challenge for those diving into this book to beat Sister Lou to the culprit.

3. The author repeats–and I mean REPEATS–the color of a character's watch, desk chairs, desk, hair color, shirt, pants, eye color, EVERYTHING. No, I'm dead serious. I don’t know how many times Sister Lou’s wristwatch was relayed to readers as red. And, yes, every time she looked at it. Coffee eyes were a big default description of certain character's eye color. Along with Sister Lou's orange sedan. Cloths repeatedly "clashed" with hair color. Sister Lou's desk chair was powder blue. Man, it really kept going on and on and on. So I better stop here.
“’What evidence do the deputies have against you?’  Chris asked from his position besides Sister Lou on the black leather sofa.  He’d changed out of his suit and tie into a bronze jersey, dark khakis, and black-and-white sneakers.
4. The investigative procedural is a straightforward loop. A. Sister Lou and her team decides which suspect to speak to. B. They go to his or her office (enter parking lot descriptions). C. Sister Lou notices a piece of deductive nuance to cancel out suspect. D. Leaves to go to another suspect's office.

The author more or less rotates the readers through this circular process. At one point it breaks away to include the police station in the mix. Still, this is what you get. And it goes on and on and on.

Speaking of offices. Every time someone enters Sister Lou’s office, she's always saving a file she has on her computer. Another repeated nuance.

5. Though the author describes her settings at each step, I never felt like the characters were anywhere. It was always a parking lot, a living room, an office (mostly offices, dude!). All described, never really buzzing with life for some reason. Almost like it all took place on a stage. Or walking through a beautiful house that doesn't look lived in. No other way to describe it. Either way, the vibe was hard to ignore.
“The building reminded Sister Lou of a right triangle. Its fa├žade was its longest side, rising at an angle to meet its rear. As Shari drove her car around the lot looking for a parking space, Sister Lou leaned forward to peer into the glass and metal building. The view was good advertising for the business.”

6. The book dragged a bit–as the author worked around character relationships. She worked on Shari. She worked on Chris. She worked on Sister Lou. She worked on Shari and Chris. She worked on Sister Lou and Shari. Sister Lou and Chris. And, well, all the suspects, congregational sisters, and law enforcement officers between. Some of these development sections could’ve slimmed down and out, as they felt like filler. Don't get it twisted, though. The characters had enough presence to keep me glued. Even the insufferable suspects who all read the same to the point where they were becoming indistinguishable. I will say this, though. The victim's wife and son were the best of the cast concerning presence.

7. This is stupid of me to mention, but all the characters ever ate was either soup, salads or turkey sandwiches. It wasn’t until the end of the book where they ate pizza. The whole time I wondered where the soul food was. Stereotypical angle? Perhaps. But all the same, I expected at least a little taste in the character of Shari.

“Chris looked up from his beef vegetable soup and turkey and provolone on multi-grain sandwich. ‘That’s not like her.’”

Well, I’m leaving it at that.  Should I get into my favorite bits?  Nah.  Why?  BECAUSE DESPITE ALL THOSE TEDIOUS CONCERNS, THIS SERIES IS A KEEPER.  Resoundingly, I went from start to finish never skipping a beat.  Even when I wanted to pull my non-existent hair out at all the looping.  For whatever reason, I didn’t want to miss anything this book had to offer.  I want to say the author had a certain command of my attention.

I look forward to reading more of this series.

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