by Cathy Lubenski
Series: Bertie Mallowan Mystery #1
Reporter Bertie Mallowan has drifted away from hard news stories and into the shallows of "fluff" features, the kind you find buried in the back of the newspaper. Writing about preschool fashion shows and the latest in designer garbage bags bores her so she amuses herself by inventing naughty passwords for her computer and pushing the envelope when it comes to creative lying to management types. When she interviews greedy, nasty Robert Bellingham, the king of must-have luxury items for the rich of Southern California - like monogrammed airbags for "The Crash with Panache" and mink coats pre-streaked with red paint to foil PETA kamikazes. Over the years, his products have become de rigueur for the class that has two of everything and is seeking the one and only of something else. He's made a lot of money and a lot of enemies. Two days after Bertie's interview, Bellingham's body is found on the floor of the foyer in the family mansion; someone has aerated his skull with the stereotypical blunt object. Thanks to her interview, Bertie has inside information about the life and times of a rich and powerful murder victim and is thrust into a big story again. Bertie is convinced that the family's bizarre emotional ticks make them all uniquely capable of committing murder. A second murder and an attack on Bertie herself brings her face-to-face with the kind of danger she's only ever written about, never experienced first-hand.
Trashy Chic by Cathy Lubenski was a fun and suspenseful murder mystery with a cozy mystery feel. I easily consumed this in a single day and was drawn into the sometimes crazy, if not, funny world of fluff newspaper reporter Bertie Mallowan. I giggled my way through this and loved the clever twists involving the murder, suspects and other key players.
Things are not looking good at the newspaper where Bertie Mallowan works, but when Robert Bellingham a greedy, nasty millionaire dubbed the “King of Luxury Items” is found murdered in his foyer, things get very interesting. Bertie was the last person to interview the victim, and when her boss asks her to hand her notes over to the lead reporter, she sees a chance to get a front-page piece. The tale that unfolds was hilarious, full of suspense and kept me turning the pages at a steady pace.
The protagonist Bertie is a coffee loving, Nancy Drew wanna-be who is snarky, inquisitive and I’d certainly be her friend. I laughed so hard I had tears in my eyes over this protagonist and her shenanigans. The things she said and did where downright snarky and mischievous. She is a mix of confidence and self-doubt. She avoids upper management even going so far as to change her route to the water cooler and memorizing the shoes of the female executives who enter the bathroom to avoid them. Shawn the lead reporter was a first class jerk, and I really wanted to smack him. Detective Madison, on the other hand, was in a word- yum. The author compared his looks to a young Harrison Ford. *swoons* The suspects were well fleshed out and over the top interesting. I adored Bertie’s best friend Kate and loved the mischief they got into. Even secondary characters had their own voice in this and added to the tale.
I love snarky characters and murder mysteries and Trashy Chic delivered on both fronts. Lubenski offered not only memorable characters but a plot line with delightful twists. The pacing was well done, the characters felt genuine and the humor sprinkled throughout made this stellar. The “who, why and how” was smart and I squealed with delight. I loved how the book wrapped up and laughed aloud as I turned the last page.
I totally recommend Trashy Chic to fans of cozy mysteries and murder mysteries. I am looking forward to reading Snarky Park the next Bertie Mallowan mystery!
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