Sunday, April 27, 2014

Portrait of a Dead Guy, by Larissa Reinhart

I read a really good cozy mystery series recently, y'all — the Cherry Tucker Mysteries.  The prequel to the series, Quick Sketch, is included in Heartache Motel, which I reviewed here.  

Book One in the series is Portrait of a Dead Guy Let me tell you a little about it.

In Halo, Georgia, folks know Cherry Tucker as big in mouth, small in stature, and able to sketch a portrait faster than buckshot rips from a ten gauge -- but commissions are scarce. So when the well-heeled Branson family wants to memorialize their murdered son in a coffin portrait, Cherry scrambles to win their patronage from her small town rival. 

As the clock ticks toward the deadline, Cherry faces more trouble than just a controversial subject. Between ex-boyfriends, her flaky family, an illegal gambling ring, and outwitting a killer on a spree, Cherry finds herself painted into a corner she’ll be lucky to survive.
from Goodreads

Portrait of a Dead Guy is a really great, really fun read!  Author Larissa Reinhart has written a first-rate debut mystery novel, filled with humorous, quirky, authentic and intriguing characters.  Reinhart has created a believable setting in fictional Halo of Forks County.  It's a place I'd like to visit (except for the murders, of course).

Halo is a small town, where everybody knows everything about everyone — and everyone's family.  As far as the townsfolk of Halo are concerned, Cherry has to overcome not only her own teenage shenanigans, but also those of her older sister Casey and her younger brother Cody, plus the actions of their mother (who abandoned them when they were little).  Cherry keeps getting pulled into situations by the killer, but the townsfolk think that she's just pulling the crazy stunts on her own, to get orders for her art business.  This is why winning the commission for the coffin portrait of Dustin Branson is so important to her.  

Here are some of my favorite quotes from Portrait of a Dead Guy:

     "You spent all that money on art school to paint pictures of dogs?'  
     "I spent all that money on art school to become a professional artist," I said.  "It's early days yet.  For now, I take what I can get."
     "Including painting the departed?"
     "You ever heard of a still life?"

     After two minutes of carefully unwrapping Dustin's portrait, a stunned silence filled the room.  Wanda clutched her sides with tears running rivulets down her face.  
     "It's amazing," she said.  "It's like a work of art."

     "How can you be mistaken about that?" asked Luke.  I looked up from my bowl and caught Todd's wide-eyed open face greet Luke's shuttered countenance.  They reminded me of Lassie meeting Cujo.

     With a grunt, he kicked his heel against the archway.  "I'm usually more in control.  Do you think I like feeling this way?  You're like malaria or something.  I think I'm over you and suddenly you've worked your way into my system again."

I hope these quotes have made you want to read more about Cherry Tucker, in Portrait of a Dead Guy.  I recommend it to all cozy mystery fans, and to mystery fans in general.  This would be a great introduction to the cozy genre.  I give Portrait of a Dead Guy my Five-Kitty seal of approval.