Portrait of a Dead Guy
Review: Larissa Reinhart introduces struggling artist Cherrilyn "Cherry" Tucker, whose commission to paint a portrait of the dead son of a prominent local family leads to danger for herself, in Portrait of a Dead Guy.
Cherry would much rather be doing portraits of kids and their dogs, homes and gardens, even a sketch of her Grandpa's ornery goat Tater — if he paid her for it, which he wouldn't — than depicting Dustin Branson in his coffin, but a commission is a commission, and her truck is badly in need of repair. Check that. Replacement. So when the Bransons decided to memorialize their son — why, she's not entirely sure; he was a thug — she accepts. Only to discover she has to compete for the job with another family member. Well, she's going to show them that she's the best, and sneaks into the funeral home late at night to get a head start on the project. When she spies a bulge in Dustin's suit jacket pocket, the perfectionist in her knows that she needs to fix that before she get started. Just as she removes a small bag from the pocket, she's walloped on the head from behind. She doesn't see who did it, but when a string of break-ins follow, it's clear that someone is looking for something. And now that someone has finally decided that Cherry has whatever it is. Now if only she knew what it was, too, …
Portrait of a Dead Guy is an easy-reading country-cozy style mystery. Set in rural central Georgia, where "everyone knows your business without even trying", there are a lot of characters that enter and exit, stage left and stage right, with whom Cherry engages in conversation. To be sure, she is a talkative one. At times, it's a little hard keeping up with the myriad interpersonal relationships and dynamics. Cherry makes for an engaging, amicable amateur sleuth, but most of the support cast aren't all that consequential and tend to fade into the background. The primary storyline basically asks the question, who killed Dustin Branson and why — he's already dead when the book starts — though it isn't, fortunately or not, depending on your overall view of the book, a terribly demanding one. There are a few clever lines, like …
Painting made me happy. Getting paid for it made me downright ecstatic. A beer would perfect the moment, but I sucked on the Coke instead. Breaking into a funeral home to paint a dead body was bad enough. Somehow cracking into a six-pack pushed the crime into red-neck realm.
… but not enough of them. Portrait of a Dead Guy may be a pleasant way to spend a rainy afternoon, but after the paint has dried, as it were, it's not an altogether memorable mystery.
Acknowledgment: Henery Press provided an ARC of Portrait of a Dead Guy for this review.
Review Copyright © 2012 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Portrait of a Dead Guy: Georgia
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Portrait of a Dead Guy by Larissa Reinhart — A Cherry Tucker Mystery
Publisher: Henery Press
Format: Trade Paperback
Publication Date: August 2012
List Price: $14.95