Sandra Balzo,
Running on Empty
(Severn House, 2011)

Here is a sample of dialogue from Sandra Balzo's mystery, Running on Empty:

"I'm sure you've met the frat pack." The sisterhood took over the inn whenever they visited. It would be hard to miss them.
But apparently he had. "Pardon?"
"Joy Tamarack and her gang?" Sheree explained, a tad sourly.
Annalise noticed. "Why the long face, Seabiscuit?"
Duende laughed, but Sheree's scowl grew more pronounced. "What are you, five?"
"Sorry. Coming home can regress a person."

This type of repartee characterizes the book. Another example:

"The man's wearing a blood-red shirt."
"Vermillion," Annalise interjected. "Kenneth Cole makes one, but this..."
Chuck looked skyward.
"What?" Annalise protested. "It's still deep-red, just with an orangish..."
"Lise?" Chuck interrupted. "I know I'm gay, but please don't talk to me about this crap. It freaks me out."

At about this point, if he hasn't before, the reader will also find himself wishing Balzo wouldn't talk to him about this crap, either. I know it freaked me out.

This is supposed to be a mystery, a cozy to be sure, but still a novel centered on the solution to a crime. What it's really about, though, is cuteness. The characters talk cute, incessantly. Almost every statement leads to a passage like the two quoted above and, if a series of almost random digressions are what you look for in a book, this is the one for you.

More demanding readers will, like me, find their patience tested.

book review by
Michael Scott Cain

7 May 2011

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