REVIEW: A Parfait Murder

Note: This review originally appeared in The Season E-Zine's June mystery section.

A Parfait Murder by Wendy Lyn Watson
Obsidian, June 2011

Rating: 9 (Excellent) (The Season's rating scale runs from 1 to 10)

For fans of: Donna Andrews and Madelyn Alt

Tallulah "Tally" Jones is living the good life: summer has returned to Dalliance, Texas; her ice cream shop, the Remember the A-la-mode, is doing a respectable business; and she’s once more happily ensconced in a relationship with her former high-school sweetheart, Finn Parker. But then her cousin Bree’s no-account ex, Sonny Anders, returns to town, a new woman on his arm and a wad of cash in his pocket, and Tally’s happy existence is thrown into a tailspin. Bree threatens to sue Sonny for child support, and Sonny responds by serving Bree with papers questioning the paternity of their daughter Alice. Tally is hopeful that a simple DNA test will bring the family drama to an end, but when Sonny’s lawyer is shot dead and Bree is found standing over the body holding the gun, she’s forced to admit that their troubles have only just begun. Bree swears she’s innocent of the crime, and Tally knows her cousin is incapable of murder, but the police remain unconvinced. Can Tally and Finn work together to exonerate Bree and catch the real killer?

A Parfait Murder is the third in Wendy Lyn Watson’s Mystery a la Mode series. I flat-out adored both the series debut, I Scream, You Scream, and its sequel, Scoop to Kill, so I had high hopes for Watson’s latest, and I’m happy to report it doesn’t disappoint. As always, Watson’s prose is lush, vibrant, and chock full of Texas charm. Her story is rich and complex, her dialogue is sharp, witty, and natural, and her descriptions are so vivid the imagery practically leaps off the page.

Watson’s characters are marvelous to a one, each with their own distinct personality and unique motivations. Tally makes for a fantastic main character – a strong, smart, funny, heroine with whom you immediately empathize and identify – and the people who populate her life add wonderful depth and texture to the story. From fiery yet vulnerable Bree, to sweetly serious Alice, to steel magnolia Grandma Peachy, these are characters you can’t help but feel affection for, and by the end of the book, you’re bound to feel as though you’re part of the family, yourself.

The mystery is intriguing and expertly crafted, full of twists and turns that you’ll never see coming, but it’s the interpersonal dramas that play out over the course of the book that really make it shine. The relationships Watson has created here – between Tally and Finn, Tally and Bree, Tally and Alice, and even Tally and her ex-husband, Wayne – are realistic and complex and beautifully illustrate the idea that when it comes to matters of love and family, things are never as black and white as they seem.

Wendy Lyn Watson’s books are simply a must-read. Go buy A Parfait Murder and while away a sunny afternoon with Tally in Dalliance; it just may be the best part of your week.