HOLY DEATH: The First P.I. Berger Novel
Alabaster Book Publishing, 2008
Review by Cindy Chow
Take a tough-talking private detective who calls women “broads” and thinks that the prospective client who just walked in has blond hair that "flowed over her shoulders like cheese sauce on a baked potato." Add the PI’s hot secretary who is nicknamed "Bunny" and happens to be sleeping with the boss. Now however, surprise the reader by making the detective a thirty-something woman and having her eye-candy assistant Bernando "Bunny" Contreras be a part-time standup comedian/karate instructor/secretary. What you get is this very unique take on the noir mystery by Harol Marshall. Pauline (Polly) Isabel Berger is a PI both in name and profession. She's less than thrilled, though, with her new leggy client Cinda Mae Bradbury, who thinks that her boyfriend is being poisoned by Santa Muerte, which is both a cult and a saint. However, it's Cinda Mae's husband who meets his maker first, with the boyfriend arrested as the culprit. A hysterical -and often confusing - Cinda Mae insists that Antonio is not guilty, insisting that Polly prove his innocence.
With the aid of one of her cop ex-husbands (she has two), Polly meanders her way through Cinda Mae's malapropos, metaphors, and lies. Polly also has to juggle the jealousy of her assistant (who isn't bothered by their 12 year age difference) and the flirtatious attentions of her Ex. If she can still manage to solve the case, it will definitely be a miracle.
A noir mystery featuring a hard-boiled female detective, the novel never takes itself too seriously. The dialogue can often be exhausting with its continual inclusion of puns, ridiculous names, and jokes, but the characters are likable enough to make the reading a pleasure. Anyone looking for a parody of the classic, noir mystery will find enjoyment in the first installment of this series.