In Dead Air by Mary Kennedy, Maggie has recently left her psychology practice to move to a small town in Florida and host a radio call-in show called On the Couch with Maggie Walsh. One day Maggie has a guest on her show, a New Age leader who calls himself Guru Sanjay. He is holding a conference about his teachings, drawing hoards of people to the hotel near the radio station. But then the next morning, Maggie gets word that Guru Sanjay is dead. But worse, within minutes, the police show up at Maggie’s door with questions; her roommate is the number one suspect in his murder. Because Maggie is certain that Lark is innocent and that the police won’t look beyond Lark, Maggie determines to find the killer herself.
A day later, just as the guest for Maggie’s show cancels at the last moment, Maggie’s mother shows up at the radio station. Desperate for material for the show, Maggie’s assistant gets Lola, Maggie’s mother and an actress who doesn’t really accept that her glory days are past, to be the guest on the show. Thus, Lola enters the scene and joins up with Maggie in trying to solve the murder.
The investigation leads them to the hotel where Sanjay was killed when Maggie comes home to an intruder going through her stuff and who attacks Maggie. Besides this, Maggie and Lola end up at a really nasty trailer park and a really ritzy bar in Miami. Keeping in touch with the police detective in charge of the case, Maggie finds herself having trouble concentrating on the issues while with him, leading to a hint of a romance line open for future books.
The most enjoyable character in this book is Maggie’s mother, Lola. An actress with real acting training and just enough experience in minor parts in major productions and major parts in minor productions, Maggie has things covered no matter the situation they find themselves in, an expert in everything because she had to prepare for parts. Handle a gun? No problem! She still has a concealed carry permit that she got while preparing to audition for Charlie’s Angels. Do hypnosis? She was trained by an expert for a part as a hypnotherapist. Tie up the criminal? She’s got that covered too! She once played a sailor!
The rest of the book falls a little flat next to Lola. Maggie comes across only semi-believably as a psychologist because experts in that profession spend their careers listening to other people and can only be successful if they can come across as understanding and empathetic, but Maggie does not seem to exercise these characteristics in her detection. She also does not seem to have the temperament of a talk show host. That role would suit her mother much better.
Kim McKean narrates the audio version of this book. In some ways she was effective, sounding the way I would imagine Maggie to be, as she seems believable as a psychologist. But I was disappointed in the number of words mispronounced, especially the words in Spanish. It is clear that McKean has no knowledge of how to pronounce Spanish words, something that she should do if she wants to continue in narration, since Spanish words have crept into American English so much. Another word that she inexplicably mispronounced was the “Mead” in St. Mary Mead, the home of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple. It came across as “med” instead of “Mead.”
Dead Air has some promise, but it also has areas that needed improvement. The plot was fairly enjoyable, but the character development was disappointing, especially when I can see the ability of the author in her portrayal of Lola. The one negative thing about doing a first-person narration is the tendency of the narrator to spend too much time thinking to herself in analyzing her situation. I give this book three stars.
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