In The Diva Runs Out of Thyme, the first Domestic Diva Mystery by Krista Davis, social planner Sophie Winston has a busy Thanksgiving holiday planned. Her parents and sister, plus her sister’s new fiance, are coming for the holiday, and Sophie is scheduled to compete the day before Thanksgiving in Alexandria, Virginia’s Stupendous Stuffing Shakedown. She will be facing off against her lifelong rival, Natasha Smith, the self-proclaimed local celebrity who is the real diva in the book, with a snobbish attitude demanding perfection in all aspects of her and everyone else’s life but especially in entertaining. But not only does Natasha have the media attention, she has Sophie’s ex-husband as well. Going to the grocery store the night before the contest, Sophie meets a man who tries to get her to take in a kitten he can’t care for. Leaving the store, Sophie starts to reconsider her refusal and looks for the man. She finds him, but he is dead, the victim of murder, but on the plus side, she rescues the cat!
Sophie finds herself a suspect in the murder, especially with the discovery that the dead man, Otis Bulchenski, is a private investigator and has Sophie’s photo in his car, with documents that show he has been looking into her. But life must move forward, and the next day is the Stupendous Stuffing Shakedown. But just as the contest is about to begin, Sophie finds the body of judge Simon Greer, stabbed with the turkey statue created as a prize for the winner of the stuffing contest. Immediately after Sophie has tested the pulse of Simon to determine he is dead, Natasha bursts in and screams that Sophie has murdered the judge!
The wild adventure only gets started when Sophie’s Thanksgiving guest list grows. First, late at night arrives Rose, the mother of Sophie’s ex-husband, Mars (who besides a Roman god or a planet is named Mars? I can’t locate the spelling of his name online, since I listen to my books, but I can’t imagine any other possible spelling of this pronunciation, and no matter what, it seems really strange to me to name a character after the god of war!). Rose is fed up with Natasha, with whom Mars now lives (whether he actually left Sophie for Natasha or waited to date his wife’s personal enemy until after the divorce is unclear, with different people giving different explanations). Then, when Natasha’s home catches fire, Rose invites her whole family to Sophie’s house for Thanksgiving, and the guest list keeps growing. Sophie must deal with murder while also being pressured to host the perfect dinner as hostess.
This book has some strong points, but it runs hot and cold. I enjoyed the basic mystery plot, and I really had fun with the advice columns at the beginning of each chapter. They vary between letters written to and from Natasha and Sophie. The women’s personalities come across so clearly in their letters, with Natasha showing herself to be a complete snob, while Sophie shows a more compassionate, practical side.
I did not appreciate the way everyone seems to idolize Natasha and her unrealistic expectations of entertaining. Sophie’s mother, for instance, frequently points out the amazing and ridiculous standards of Natasha in pointing out her own daughter’s shortcomings. This especially seems strange given that both Sophie’s and Mars’s mothers are anxious to get the ex-spouses back together, and Natasha, Mars’s new girlfriend, stands in the middle of their doing this.
Hillary Huber performs the audio version of this book. I like the sound of her voice, which suits the book well.
I enjoyed The Diva Runs Out of Thyme, but I did get annoyed at the idolized treatment of Natasha and poor treatment of Sophie throughout the book. I don’t know whether I’ll get the next book in the series. But Davis’s series set in Wagtail started hot and cold in its first book, and I love her subsequent books. So I might consider getting another. I give this book 3.5 stars.
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