Sunday, October 17, 2021

REVIEW: The Perfect Death (audiobook) by Stacy Claflin, narrated by Tina Wolstencroft

The Perfect Death is the first book in Claflin's Brannon House series. It reads a bit like a blend of mystery and chick lit. I checked it out via OverDrive.


Kenzi Brannon works for an agency that provides people with fake dates, fake fiancees, fake friends, etc., whatever they need in order to get through a public or family event with a minimum of stress and awkwardness. She's in the middle of a job, pretending to be a handsome and wealthy client's fake girlfriend, when she gets a call informing her that her estranged sister (whose name I can't remember) has committed suicide. As if that weren't enough of a shock, apparently her sister named her the guardian of Ember, her teenage niece. Although her sister's husband isn't Ember's biological father, he's been part of her life since she was two. Why leave Ember in the care of Kenzi, someone who barely knows her?

Thankfully, Kenzi's sister also left her their family's old home, because she wouldn't have the space to take Ember in otherwise. Unfortunately, the place has been abandoned for a few years and is a bit worse for the wear. Also, there are rumors it may be haunted. However, Kenzi has worse things to worry about, as she begins to suspect that her sister's death wasn't a suicide after all.

What the cover of this book promised: creepiness, atmosphere, suspense. What it delivered: bad and unnecessarily repetitive writing, and no creepiness or suspense whatsoever. Simply saying that a house is probably haunted and that at least one of the characters worries it's true isn't enough to make the house creepy. The author's few efforts at "creepy" moments were tepid at best.

The book switched between Kenzi and Ember's POVs, and unfortunately they sounded similar enough, both in terms of wording and the audiobook narration, that I tended to get confused. Sometimes they communicated the same information to readers (for example, that Kenzi was closer in age to Ember than to her own sister), so I wondered why the author bothered with separate POVs.

There were several moments that felt like they were building up to something more but then just fizzled out. For example, initially there was a lot of focus on Kenzi's rich and handsome fake date and the expensive necklace he just casually allowed her to keep. This hardly came up again, as Kenzi found herself dazzled by another handsome guy, one of the cops looking into Kenzi's sister's death. I suspect the author has plans for some sort of love triangle later in the series, especially considering the additional complication that popped up at the very end of the book, but putting that much emphasis on that first fake date and the necklace made it seem like those might be important in this book.

The mystery was horrible, so obvious that the only surprise was that all those clues weren't red herrings. It's really too bad that the book didn't live up to the promise of its cover. I don't plan to continue this series.

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