PUBLICATION DATE: AUGUST 1, 2012
hen Raven, a former supermodel who is hated by many, dies at the Palm Grotto Spa, almost everyone’s a suspect, almost everyone has a motive, and almost everyone is happy to see her gone. Juliette Taylor, a former modeling colleague who now co-owns a beauty company that makes skincare products, is at the same spa hosting a spiritual retreat, and is shocked by Raven’s death. But, since Raven had recently threatened to kill her, the police consider her one of the suspects, even more when it is discovered that Raven was poisoned by an ingredient found in one of Juliette’s skincare masks. Now Juliette, with the help of her friend Didi, Marcus (the love of her life), and a few others, must solve the mystery and find the real killer before the police close in on her and before the killer strikes again.
This novel has a few great things going for it: a nice cover, a good premise that gets the reader interested and that gives the expectation of a cozy, fun and enjoyable murder/mystery ride. It is told from different, very well written point of views that flow nicely from one character to the next. It has a very, very likable male lead, written with the perfect man in mind and it works. Marcus’ character was written so well; this is the kind of man every woman wants. The story has a nicely written romantic side for Juliette and her long lost love, Marcus, that was sweet, cute and very refreshing. I also really liked how well developed Crystal’s character was, as well as her part in advancing the story.
However, as well written as Marcus’ character was, Juliette’s was not. Although we got to know Marcus, his feelings, his emotions, and his thoughts, we mostly see Juliette as a business woman. Yes, we get to see her afraid, feel threatened, be in love, but not to the same extent as Marcus. And that is a shame because Juliette is the lead, the heroin, but by the end of the book you still cannot feel connected to her, at least not in the same way as with Marcus.
Also, I really didn’t like how dumb the lead characters were. In the beginning, Raven threatens Juliette and says something that baffles her. The reader, however, will know right away what Raven is referring to and seeing the leads racking their brains trying to figure it out is very irritating. Also, there are a few times that the secondary characters had to explain their conclusions to the leads as if they were children because they couldn’t understand. Again, the reader gets it instantly and it’s very easy to lose your patience with the main characters.
The story takes too long to advance; too much time is spent with information that, while valuable, was unnecessary in a book of fiction. Too much talk about counterfeit goods or counterfeiting in general, too many explanations about Marcus’ job, too much information about bombs, among other stuff. While I appreciate the fact that the authors did their research, they should have used that information for their benefit, not include it in the plot. The readers do not need a lecture on terrorist cells, or how a certain agency works, or what are counterfeit products and how big that problem is and how dangerous those fake products are.
Finally, I didn’t like the fact that, although it is a Christian fiction novel, there is no mention of Juliette’s faith in the beginning (or anyone else’s for that matter), and, all of a sudden, starting in the middle, it is mentioned constantly. And not only is Juliette a Christian, but also this other guy and another girl. As a Christian, I enjoy Christian characters, but as a reader, I expect consistency. If the characters are Christian, why hide it in the beginning only to talk about it nonstop later on?
The story is mostly good, but there are so many things that get in the way, making it long and sometimes tedious, making it advance almost in slow motion, that it disappoints. However, when it starts to round up nicely (around page 200), the action moves well, the pace moves quicker, the book gets a whole more enjoyable, the mystery gets more interesting and the time spent reading feels more validated. An ok start, a disappointing middle, and a very good ending.
oauthored works are fragmented at their conception; there are two separate storytellers trying to create one tale and it takes a tremendous amount of skill to bring one off in a seamless fashion. Unfortunately, in Beauty to Die For the pieces begin to show early on in the story.
Juliette Taylor, a former supermodel, has parlayed her fame from the catwalks into JT Lady skin care company. She is on her way to a spa weekend to speak on the importance of caretakers looking after their own needs. On the other end of the country Marcus Stone, an old friend of hers, has discovered that JT Lady is linked to terrorist organizations through the sale of counterfeit beauty products. Crystal, a newly hired masseuse at Palm Springs Grotto Resort, is working on furnishing her newly rented garage apartment and enjoying some down time with Mrs. Robinson, her landlady, before work.
Some point of view shifting is acceptable within a book, though I prefer a single point of narration. In Beauty to Die For the quick shifts in point of view make me feel like I’m navigating an ice flow, with sections smashing into one another and bouncing away until I’m not sure where to step next.
Marcus wants to warn Juliette of what has been uncovered and takes his mother out to the spa, using her as an excuse for his presence there. When he arrives the authors reveal the back story between him and Juliette, introducing a rather hard to believe love story between the two. For twenty five years, misadventures and misunderstands have kept them apart. Marcus, giving up on ever truly connecting with Juliette, marries another woman and continues on with his life. Juliette, never wanting any other fellow but the “one who got away” continues on in her singleness. This was one of the biggest stumbling blocks for me in the book; I can’t buy two characters having been thwarted by circumstances and time, continuing to carry a torch for one another over twenty five years. It also paints Marcus in a rather dubious light; did he ever genuinely love the woman he married?
With the introduction of Juliette’s former super model colleague Raven, the tale begins to shift from mystery to murder mystery. Raven makes several scenes, acting like a prima donna and even threatening Juliette if she tries out for something Raven has decided is meant for her. When she’s found dead in a Palm Grotto massage room, there are suspects galore, and one of them is Juliette.
At this point, the pieces of the story begin to drift leaving wider and wider gaps.
The love story between Juliette and Marcus suffers from their prolonged second meeting, dragging out and dragging out until it becomes anticlimactic. Crystal, who has a dark past of her own, begins to be pulled into investigating the homicide out of fear of losing her job, and several red herrings start splashing around drowning out the original hints of terrorist cells’ activities.
While the splinters of the story continue their drift in all directions, Kim Alexis and Mindy Starns Clark do a fabulous job of creating story people. Crystal in particular shines as a multifaceted character, as does Greg, the security guard helping her to investigate Raven’s death. Juliette’s looking into the murder with Marcus fleshes out Raven too in unexpected ways, retroactively making her a much more complex person than she first appears. After the second murder, a link between the counterfeited JT Lady products and one of the suspects at the spa is confirmed. This seems to be the end of things, but it’s a false stop.
There’s a secondary plot running in the background of the tale, and it’s this scenario that conceals the real murderer and motivation for the deaths at the spa. This reveal, while hinted at, is rather over the top and darker than the rest of the tone of the book.
Because of the high caliber work Mindy Starns Clark has done in the past, I expected a phenomenal murder mystery combined with a peek into the world of super modeling. What I got was an uneven mystery riddled with intriguing ideas that never fully developed.