Title: Freezer Burn
Author: Gayle Carline
Publisher: Echelon Press
Freezer Burn by Gayle Carline was a cosy fireside mystery that I quite enjoyed reading.
Peri (short for Periwinkle) Minneopah is a 50-year-old private investigator. On one of her assignments, she finds a severed hand, all shriveled up, in a client’s freezer, and finds herself embroiled in her first murder investigation.
The hand, belonging to Marnie Russell, a homeless girl, sports a ring worth $1.5 million, a ring that belonged to an old movie star. The body of the girl isn’t found until much later.
As Detective Skipper Carlton, with whom Peri is in a relationship, begins to investigate, ably assisted by coroner Blanche, Peri latches on to the investigation unofficially, convinced that it is her case too.
Soon the mystery thickens and Peri finds herself in danger, even getting assaulted by a suspect and finding herself in real and present danger, true to murder mystery tradition. Her life is threatened more than twice.
The pace does not slacken as Peri’s investigative talents come to the fore. Multiple suspects leave us readers equally clueless about the identity of the perpetrator. There are a number of characters that flit about, but none that you ever suspect, as a reader.
There are plenty of subplots in the story. While the Marnie murder investigation is on, Peri must juggle her PI surveillance cases, one particularly interesting episode with Mr Cheaver, besides best friend Blanche’s daughter’s romance with a Goth saxophonist and concerns relating to menopause and a possible pregnancy, not to mention home pregnancy testing kits that just won’t do their job.
The story is written from the third person point of view of Peri. So everything we read about is that which was actually experienced by Peri. Except for Chapter 1.
Chapter 1 functions as a Prologue whose meaning becomes evident much later.
The dialogue is realistic and credible, but the manner in which the two leads are just one degree from talking about sex almost all the time is annoying. Too much word space is given to Peri's Naughty at Fifty exploits. The way she keeps offering and suggesting sex to Skip as a way of prying information out of him is irritating. The overactive libido almost caused me to give up reading halfway through. Thankfully, it petered out as more aspects of the case become evident.
I loved the pop culture references to James Cagney, The Big Sleep with Raymond Marlowe and Sherlock Holmes. At one point, Peri watches Jessica Fletcher looking for clues on Murder, She Wrote. Peri certainly seems to get a lot of inspiration from the television.
Peri is an unusual character. For one, she is 50, not young and nubile, and she has the gumption to opt for a career transition at 50, after decades spent cleaning people’s homes. Peri gives her new career her all, using her curiosity and intelligence in a manner that might have been wasted in her cleaning career.
I also liked the solid friendship that existed between Peri, Blanche and Skip, though the fact that a respectable police officer would share details of crime scene investigations with a PI didn’t sit well.
I do wish the author had given her a nicer name than one routinely mispronounced as menopause. If the repeated references to menopause are meant to be funny, I, for one, am not amused.
The fact that the heroine is 50 years of age gives the author the opportunity to discuss issues such as menopause and age and she makes good use of the opportunity, without disrupting the flow of this cosy mystery.
As a reader, you find yourself sitting back and reading, totally relaxed, willing the author to tie up all the loose ends for you.
This one is certainly entertaining, while it lasts.