Haley Randolph has the misfortune of stumbling onto dead bodies. In the first book, Handbags and Homicide, she finds a body in the stockroom of the store where she has a part time job. In the third book, Shoulder Bags and Shootings, she finds the body in the truck of a car she has borrowed, while in the parking lot of the same store. I admit to skipping over the second book in the series, Purses and Poison. Circumstantial evidence leads to Haley being a prime suspect for the murder in both of the books that I read. Of course this means she must do some amateur detective work to clear her name. Both books also contained another side mystery more related to Haley's personal life.
I know I was really tired when I started reading Handbags and Homicide and when I'm tired I pick up on things in books that otherwise might not annoy me. For Handbags and Homicide, it was the over use of commas that drove me crazy when I started the book. Long, rambling sentences were completely held together with commas. The writing style did unfortunately fit very well with Haley's character. Haley rambles on non-stop and is easily distracted. She didn't even get serious about clearing her name until page 242 of a 291 page book! Sure, she occasionally thought about the dead guy and what might have happened but not enough to really pursue anything. I had the side mystery in the book figured out long before the main character (which makes her look really dumb) and I had the whole murder scenario figured out a bit before all the pieces fell into place.
Since I had been sent the third book for review, I continued on with Shoulder Bags and Shootings even though I had not been too impressed with Handbags and Homicide. I was really hoping to see some growth in Haley's character. Unfortunately, she hadn't changed a whole lot from the first book. This time, she did take a more active role in trying to determine how the body ended up in the trunk of her car and she pieces much more of the mystery together. However, she is still insanely self-centered and distracted. She is too clueless to even realize how bad her life really is. In Shoulder Bags and Shootings, Howell reduced the number of commas but used dashes frequently to hold sentences together.
I did feel a bit lost reading Shoulder Bags and Shootings because Haley kept referring to things that happened in Purses and Poison. She and one of the detectives from the first book apparently had a falling out over something that happened with the case in that book. There are some series that you can pick up a book and read it almost as a stand alone but this one did build on events from the previous two books. I'm glad I at least read the first book before reading the third or I would have been really frustrated with Haley's brief mention of previous events which get covered with "Long story."
Because Haley tells these stories, we only find out about other characters from her point of view. This leaves much to be desired as Haley is too shallow to notice much and we really don't even have much interaction with some of them. Marcie is supposed to be Haley's best friend but we barely spend any time with her. Ty is supposed to be Haley's boyfriend but he is absent completely in Shoulder Bags and Shootings until the very end of the book. Sure, Haley whines about their relationship constantly but we don't actually have real interaction between the characters. As a result, I found much of the supporting cast to be rather flat.
I had been hoping for a fun, cozy mystery but found myself disappointed with the characters and the writing style.
I received a copy of Shoulder Bags and Shootings from FSB Associates for review. I borrowed Handbags and Homicide from my local library. All opinions stated in this post are my own and yours may certainly differ.
For more information on the Haley Randolph Mysteries, please visit www.DorothyHowellNovels.com
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