Heavenly Detour
by Joanne Meyer, contemporary/ghost (2004)
Kensington, $6.99, ISBN 0-7582-0261-X


Heavenly Detour is one of my tentative dipping of toes into books outside the romance genre. I am becoming quite bored of the limitations of the genre and am hoping that a romantic story from outside the genre may restore some of my enthusiasm about reading in general. Alas, Joanne Meyer's debut is far from a romantic humorous mystery like the back blurb suggests (in fact, there is virtually zero romance) and come to think of it, it's not very suspenseful or funny either.

Annie Edelstein is dead. She, or rather, her ghost is telling this story in first person. Her body is discovered in the pool of the house of her employer's mother during a weekend staff getaway, and now Annie is lingering around the world hoping to find closure by helping the detectives that are investigating her death (Det Charlene Williams in fact is the only person that can see and communicate with Annie). Also along for the ride is Annie's ex-husband Frank Dowd who still loves Annie. Annie and Frank divorced after his job as an investigative reporter causes their marriage to break apart but they remain friends.

But if you're expecting some romance ala Ghost, be prepared to be disappointed as the Righteous Brothers won't be singing anytime soon. This book is more like a comfy mystery with a ghost angle narrated in a first person "sassy" voice reminiscent of a chick-lit novel. The reader will have an idea of what kind of comedy Ms Meyer is trying to write about early on in the story when the dramatic grieving of Annie's mother over her death is played up for laughs. I don't mind cynical or morbid humor, but that particular scene examplifies Ms Meyer's tendency to stretch a joke for too long until it is no longer funny. In that case, Ma Edelstein's grieving just seems to go on and on interminably.

The mystery is predictable - the villain is obvious the moment the author lets this person make an appearance in the story. The author seems to operate under the hope that Annie is funny enough to engage the reader's attention to the last page. In my case, Annie has her moments and the description of the Jewish lifestyle of Annie's family is very well-done, but on the whole, Annie becomes more irritating as the story progresses. She speaks like some annoying Valley Girl teenager, at one point even going "Nya! Nya! Nya!" at the faces of the people can't see or hear her because she thinks she is soooo funny. Annie's mental intellect seems to regress as the story progresses because her "wit" consists of unimaginative namecallings and cracking "witty" insights that are anything but. When Annie actually begins interrupting the flow of the story, such as when her flippant and increasingly juvenile one-liners intrude on scenes of Charlene's investigation, she becomes a liability to the story instead of a mere irritant. It reaches a point where I wonder why Charlene, described by the author as a very good cop, actually begins taking orders from Annie, a truly annoying nobody with a lousy sense of humor, in order to proceed with the investigations.

Heavenly Detour tries to be something different, but it just isn't working when I not only end up understanding perfectly well why some people will want Annie dead, but I also end up wishing that somebody will kill her again a few more times before the story ends. This book has an interesting concept, but the execution and humor could have been better - much, much better.

Rating: 52


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