“Foul Play on Words”

“Foul Play on Words” is book two in Becky Clark’s “Mystery Writer’s Mystery” series. The main character Charlemagne “Charlie” Russo continues from the first book, “Fiction Can Be Murder,” but new readers can jump right in without any problem. Characters are briefly introduced, and previous relationships fold easily into current scenario. It begins just three short weeks after the events in book one, and readers find Charlie Russo waiting at the airport.

This is Charlie’s story; it is her narrative, filled with insecurities, fears, coping strategies, triumphs, and tragedies. In the continuing first person narrative, she talks directly to readers and shares her apprehensive about the upcoming writing event. “I love Portland. But I’m here to speak at a writers’ conference, and I’m nervous. I’ve been on panels before, and taught workshops, but my friend Viv, who’s the organizer, wants me to give the keynote speech at the banquet on Saturday.” She also gives readers an immediate feel for what is to come. “What kind of people know people who get kidnapped? I guess I would have said the same thing about murders three weeks ago.”

Colorful and dramatic characters make their presence known, and as a mystery writer, Russo sees drama and mystery everywhere including drugs, kidnapping, and assorted potential crimes, not to mention the dogs. She shares her coping strategies. “I took a deep, cleansing breath like my yoga instructor taught. I held it for the count of five, then released for the count of five.” At any big conference, there is bound to be some sort of a problem, but unfortunately, Russo finds that at this conference one unfortunate thing leads to another and trauma piles on top of trauma.

Readers listen in as she argues with herself and rationalizes her decisions; “It has been well-documented that my sleuthing skills only worked in fiction, not real life.” She analyses the people she meets; “Clearly, this boy knew who had money and who didn’t, but I was grateful for his help and chose to ignore his, I’m sure, unintended insult.” She solicits advice from friends and relatives; “All you can do is get some evidence of foul play.”

This is an entertaining book to read. There is plenty of trauma and drama for the characters, but none for readers. After all, where else but a writers’ conference would someone write a haiku about a kidnapping? I received a review copy of “Foul Play on Words” from Becky Clark, Midnight Ink, and NetGalley.