Beat Until Stiff
Review: Claire M. Johnson introduces pastry chef Mary Ryan in her uneven first mystery, Beat Until Stiff, sort of a cozy with a hard edge. There is a soupçon of romance as well. All in all, a strange mix. Johnson wisely chose to omit interspersing her book with clever dessert recipes, a favorite tactic of culinary cozies and totally inappropriate for this book.
Johnson would have done better to soften up Mary Ryan a bit. Ryan is angry and bitter years after her divorce, and that anger and bitterness seems, in an odd way, to be directed at the reader. She's not an easy character to like, and though it's probably unfair to draw this conclusion, it's understandable why her ex-husband left her.
Johnson does a good job of keeping the story moving along at a brisk pace. Despite revealing obvious clues to the solution of the mystery that even casual readers will take note of, she neatly ties everything together at the end.
If Beat Until Stiff is the start of a new series, in addition to a new venue for the second book, a kinder, gentler Mary Ryan would be a welcome change.
Acknowledgment: Poisoned Pen Press provided an ARC of Beat Until Stiff for this review.
Review Copyright © 2003 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover), April 2008
ISBN-13: 9781590584873; ISBN-10: 1590584872
Location(s) referenced in Beat Until Stiff: San Francisco, California
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Beat Until Stiff by Claire M. Johnson — A Mary Ryan Mystery
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: December 2002
List Price: $24.95