Thursday, August 30, 2012

Beauty to Die For: A Spa Mystery, by Kim Alexis and Mindy Starns Clarks

When Raven, a former supermodel who is hated by many, dies at the Palm Grotto Spa, almost everyone’s a suspect, almost everyone has a motive, and almost everyone is happy to see her gone. Juliette Taylor, a former modeling colleague who now co-owns a beauty company that makes skincare products, is at the same spa hosting a spiritual retreat, and is shocked by Raven’s death. But, since Raven had recently threatened to kill her, the police consider her one of the suspects, even more when it is discovered that Raven was poisoned by an ingredient found in one of Juliette’s skincare masks. Now Juliette, with the help of her friend Didi, Marcus (the love of her life), and a few others, must solve the mystery and find the real killer before the police close in on her and before the killer strikes again.

This novel has a few great things going for it: a nice cover, a good premise that gets the reader interested and that gives the expectation of a cozy, fun and enjoyable murder/mystery ride. It is told from different, very well written point of views that flow nicely from one character to the next. It has a very, very likable male lead, written with the perfect man in mind and it works. Marcus’ character was written so well; this is the kind of man every woman wants. The story has a nicely written romantic side for Juliette and her long lost love, Marcus, that was sweet, cute and very refreshing. I also really liked how well developed Crystal’s character was, as well as her part in advancing the story.

However, as well written as Marcus’ character was, Juliette’s was not. Although we got to know Marcus, his feelings, his emotions, and his thoughts, we mostly see Juliette as a business woman. Yes, we get to see her afraid, feel threatened, be in love, but not to the same extent as Marcus. And that is a shame because Juliette is the lead, the heroin, but by the end of the book you still cannot feel connected to her, at least not in the same way as with Marcus.

Also, I really didn’t like how dumb the lead characters were. In the beginning, Raven threatens Juliette and says something that baffles her. The reader, however, will know right away what Raven is referring to and seeing the leads racking their brains trying to figure it out is very irritating. Also, there are a few times that the secondary characters had to explain their conclusions to the leads as if they were children because they couldn’t understand. Again, the reader gets it instantly and it’s very easy to lose your patience with the main characters.

The story takes too long to advance; too much time is spent with information that, while valuable, was unnecessary in a book of fiction. Too much talk about counterfeit goods or counterfeiting in general, too many explanations about Marcus’ job, too much information about bombs, among other stuff. While I appreciate the fact that the authors did their research, they should have used that information for their benefit, not include it in the plot. The readers do not need a lecture on terrorist cells, or how a certain agency works, or what are counterfeit products and how big that problem is and how dangerous those fake products are.

Finally, I didn’t like the fact that, although it is a Christian fiction novel, there is no mention of Juliette’s faith in the beginning (or anyone else’s for that matter), and, all of a sudden, starting in the middle, it is mentioned constantly. And not only is Juliette a Christian, but also this other guy and another girl. As a Christian, I enjoy Christian characters, but as a reader, I expect consistency. If the characters are Christian, why hide it in the beginning only to talk about it nonstop later on?

The story is mostly good, but there are so many things that get in the way, making it long and sometimes tedious, making it advance almost in slow motion, that it disappoints. However, when it starts to round up nicely (around page 200), the action moves well, the pace moves quicker, the book gets a lot more enjoyable, the mystery gets more interesting and the time spent reading feels more validated. An ok start, a disappointing middle, and a very good ending.

2 3/4 stars out of 5. Almost a 3 but not quite.

*I received a copy of this book from B&H Publishing Group through NetGalley in exchange of an honest review.


  1. I always appreciate honest reviews, especially with specific complaints. I just get so lazy with the details when I write them, even the positive ones!

    1. I sometimes feel bad, mostly when you can honestly see the authors' good intentions. You know, I don't want to sound harsh or hust someone's feelings. But there are things, mistakes that are just too obvious and I can't seem to let them go.
      Thanks for always visiting and leaving comments! I greatly appreciate it.