Until about a year ago, I worked full-time. Housewife (though I cooked and cleaned for my family at the end of each business day) was not a word on my radar. I was not a housewife. I was an independent woman with an income, and a commute. Then I quit my job. The next thing I knew I was researching recipes on Pinterest and blackmailed into being a part of the PTA.
This is when I realized “Housewives” are a particular breed of creature with a particular set of skills that I do not possess. They make each-other bedazzled t-shirts for bake sales. They plan play-dates and spend hours making goodie baskets for teachers. They gossip…relentlessly. And they do it all with a smile on their face. Something I have yet to master (because I’m too busy wincing and contemplating how many different ways I can commit suicide without leaving a mess.)
It’s pretty safe to say I am the “anti-housewife.” Which is why I was so intrigued by the premise of Kate Cooch’s “The Happy Housewife.” Stay at home mommy finds herself pearls deep in a murder investigation with a hot (very moody) out-of-town detective AND gets dinner on the table by 6? Count me in.
“Samantha ‘Sam’ Sherman is a thirty something stay-at-home Mom without any problems. She loves her smart husband, her sweet daughter, and her career choice. One day, in the process of helping a friend, she is drawn into the investigation of two murders. Suddenly, her steady world begins to sway. Insecurities from years ago return, her husband is annoyed at her involvement in the case, and then there is the acerbic detective with dark curly hair and green eyes who seems to be everywhere. Sam is miserable and stressed out and well, slightly exhilarated. Imperfection can be a deadly draw.”
Ok *sigh* I feel like I’ve been a bit of a negative Nancy lately so I’m going to try my hardest (but probably fail) to be fair to ALL of the different aspects of this book, not just the less than appealing ones.
So first, I’ll start with the story itself.
It was good. Not great. And definitely too short (170 pages) for the amount of abstract information shoved inside it’s plot, but good.
To make a long story short: a house goes boom, a kid gets killed, some random dude ends up dead in the neighbors bed and Sam (the happy housewife herself) finds herself stuck in the middle of all of it. Because she has REALLY bad timing (and apparently no sense of self-preservation.) All solid elements for a murder mystery.
But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. I want to start at the very beginning (where most good stories/pissy monologues start.) I would be lying if I said I was over the moon about this book. Yes, it had all of the elements of a fantastic story, but until the mid-point I felt like I was reading an encyclopedia instead of a book.
Well, remember when I said it was too short for the amount of abstract information it had? This is what I was talking about:
“In October 1969, the Weatherman faction put their militant, confrontation theory on the line as they battled the Chicago police in the “Days of Rage.” At their last public gathering held in Flint, Michigan, in December 1969, the Weatherman ‘War Council’ decided the group would go underground. “We have to start tearing down this country, ” Mark Rudd told the War Council. “We have to have a revolution in this country that’s going to overthrow — like bombs, like guns, like firebombs, by anything and everything.” Charles Manson was enshrined as a heroic symbol, and Weatherman began saluting each other with the fork sign, three fingers held up like the two-fingered peace sing but instead signifying the three-pronged serving fork left jabbed in the stomach of Robert LaBianca after…..”
I could keep going…
There where pages and pages of articles just like this one that acted like speed bumps to an otherwise fast-paced plot. I understand the reasoning behind it. Sam is (according to her) a self-taught intellect. She learns by reading, and because of this…WE get to read what SHE is reading/researching. Unfortunately all of these passages just made me tired. If, for example, Cooch has simply alluded to the passages, cut them in half, or presented them as a conversation instead of an article, I think the flow of her book would have been spot on without compromising the elements (and mystery) the articles provided.
Speaking of conversations…I would have loved more of them. Not with everyone (of course) but with the visiting detective. Cooch did an amazing job of creating stable, believable characters, so it seems a shame that one of the more appealing (and mysterious ones) was decidedly absent until the last (and most exciting) 15% of the book. There was a connection there. There was snark, miscommunication and an undeniable chemistry…why not play it up? I’m not saying Sam should pack her bags and leave her family high and dry, but a little more back and forth with two well crafted characters would have made my previous apprehensions vanish into thin air.
Alas…despite the lengthy reference materials and my (desperate) need for more cop/housewife interaction “The Happy Housewife” still fit the bill as a quick, enjoyable murder mystery. It has just enough “twist” to keep the story interesting, but isn’t panic inducing like some thrillers tend to be. Let’s just call this “Murder Mystery 101: For beginners.” Read on the beach, at the airport or while you are waiting in the carpool line. It shouldn’t take you more than a couple of hours AND you will learn a heck of a lot about fictional eco-terrorism in the process.
Happy Reading my fellow Kindle-ites and remember: it’s not what you say…it’s how you say it that matters.
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