Barbara Marr is just your average suburban mom who thinks of life in terms of movies. She's just going through the daily grind that includes raising her three daughters and wondering why her husband just left her. Wildlife is common in the aptly-named neighborhood of Rustic Woods, but screeching monkeys in the trees? Not so typical. So when loud noises in the middle of the night seem to be coming from the vacant house Barb calls the "House of Many Bones," Barb gets out of bed to investigate. She hears howls and screams, and finds her trees overrun with monkeys. Eager to have something to get her mind off her own misery, she begins an investigation. She pulls in her best friend, Roz, and an ex-boyfriend, Colt, pulls himself in. That's about the time that things get just a little out of hand. Barb finds herself thrown into a thrilling cinematic adventure of her own, complete with the Mafia, guns, stake-outs, and dead body parts, and she belatedly realizes there's no director around to yell "cut!"
The first in the Barbara Marr Murder Mystery series, this book by Karen Cantwell is a hoot. Barb is zany, outlandish, and doesn't always make the best choices, so she's a lot of fun to follow. She says and does things we all think about sometimes. She's a typical mom with three girls and a bit -ok, more than a bit- of a movie fetish. Barb sees things in terms of how characters in a movie would react, which adds some nice color commentary. I found this tact to be a clever way to tie the storyline in with Barb's character, and it really helps you get a more developed picture of what Barb is like. It also leaves a lot of potential for future storylines. The wacky premise and kooky cast of characters is reminiscent of those found in books written by Jennifer Crusie and Jane Heller. If you prefer realistic mysteries, then this may not be your best choice. This book is pure fun and silliness, and what I consider to be complete "brain candy." I know, for me, indulging in brain candy is a really relaxing and entertaining way to spend some free time.
Along the line of these types of stories, the writing style is a bit quirky, with some interesting grammar constructs. In a story of this genre, this informal and offbeat writing doesn't seem out of place. The storyline gets a little more outlandish on each new page turned. The sometimes eccentric secondary characters add color to the story, and the descriptions of each character allow you to really picture them. There is some predictability to the plot, and some of the male characters, in particular, seem cliche, but it's all in line with the genre of the story. The ending is satisfying in the way that is typical of this type of book, and it prepares you to read the next story in the series.
Overall, a zany and fun adventure in which to immerse yourself!
4 /5 stars
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A collection of shorts, "The Chronicles of Marr-nia" showcases Barbara Marr in some family adventures. Zany and fun, this is a good companion to "Take the Monkeys and Run." I could especially relate to the motherhood aspect of the stories, and I will fully admit that I've been known to "Hulk-out," too. This collection may be a good bet if you'd like to get to know Barb before deciding if her murder mystery series is right for you. It's a great introduction to the characters and the type of writing you'll see in the full-length novel. There are also a few bonus stories at the end that follow a completely different type of writing style, and it gives the reader a sense of the author's other capabilities as a writer.
Available at Amazon