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    Review of MURDER WITH RESERVATIONS by Elaine Viets (see her website)


    NAL, May 2007

    When a divorce judge gave her cheating husband half her salary, Helen Hawthorne quit her executive job in corporate America and started a string of menial labor jobs--ending up as a cleaning woman in a Florida hotel. She makes her money under the table and doesn't give her evil ex-husband, Rob, a nickle, but he's after her and Helen fears that, if he ever catches her, he'll find a way to make her rejoin the ratrace--or put her in jail. Now Rob has tracked her to Florida and, in an incredible coincidence, is staying at the hotel where she works.

    Fortunately, Helen is not alone. Although she refuses to take the advice of her boyfriend (who wants to hire a decent lawyer and take the case back to court), the other hotel employees and the other residents in the apartment where she live agree to divert Rob--ultimately hooking him up with a woman notorious for murdering her unfaithful husbands. What could be more fitting than that. Meanwhile, though, one of the other hotel cleaning women is found murdered in the hotel's dumpster and all of the hotel employees spend their free time looking for the bank robbery treasure reportedly stashed in the hotel and never found.

    Author Eliane Viets (see more reviews of mysteries by Viets) writes a readable light mystery with a deft touch of humor. I found Helen a bit hard to take--her rejection of her boyfriend's obviously sound advice didn't really make sense given it has been several years since her divorce. Surely she can see that hiding for the rest of her life isn't the right answer. Of course tax evasion and ignoring a court order aren't especially sympathetic qualities, either. For someone who works as a cleaning lady, Helen retains a bit much of her corporate snobishness as well, looking down on fellow cleaner, Rhonda. From a mystery perspective, I would have liked a bit more in the way of red herrings--we really didn't have any alternate suspect to the Rhonda's actual murderer.

    Although I would have liked to see a few more twists and a more sympathetic protagonist, MURDER WITH RESERVATIONS is highly readable and an overall well-done look at the work lives of those who survive doing the grunt jobs that keep civilization afloat--as well as the grief they take from hotel guests.

    Two Stars

    Reviewed 8/22/07

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