by Diana Dempsey
$3.99 electronic edition
available on Amazon
(I received a free advanced copy of this book to review. Author Diana Dempsey neither bribed me with chocolate nor spiked my driveway with nails to influence this review.)
In her latest Beauty Queen mystery, author Diana Dempsey sends her sleuthing queen to a new exotic locale--Miami, Florida. Happy Pennington, the reigning Ms. America, is a judge for the Teen Princess of the Everglades pageant, and if the disorganized show doesn't have enough problems, fellow judge, Perpetua "Peppi" Lopez Famosa, makes an unexpected appearance onstage during a practice session, her corpse draped over a gaudy pirate ship prop.
The sweet, professional Peppi appears to have a darker side, one that might have included drugs, but that's not something one can bring up in conversation with her grieving mother, Paloma. Besides, Poloma is fixated on Peppi's half-brother, Hector, as the murderer. There are a surprising number of people with motives for wanting Peppi dead, and with the lead detective more concerned about publicity and possible dates than chasing clues, Happy digs in to discover who killed Peppi.
Best friends, Shanelle and Trixie, respectively former Ms. Mississippi and reigning Ms. Congeniality, are on board again, but so is Happy's teenage daughter Rachel. Pageant host and secret agent Mario Suave is ever present and causing Happy's heart to flutter, but so is his cranky teenage daughter, Mariela, and her gorgeous mother, Consuela Machado. Even Happy's father and hunky husband, Jason, make appearances.
The characters rule in the Beauty Queen books, and they're a fun bunch to spend time with. There is something about having the action stop while Happy describes in detail what she and others are wearing that cracks me up (and has me checking my own closet), and it's a brilliant reminder that, clever as she is at solving crimes, Happy is a dedicated beauty queen.
Dempsey cleverly paints her suspects with shades of grey. Any one of them could have done the evil deed, but you kind of hope they didn't. Through Mariela, the author touches on the terrible examples teens are exposed to and the possible consequences when they buy into the instant-fame-and-fortune scenarios presented in the media.
"Ms. America and the Mayhem in Miami" is the third book in the Beauty Queen Mystery series, and while it works perfectly well as a standalone, I highly recommend readers purchase the first two novels for proper immersion into the characters and culture!