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The title of this book prompted me to buy it - similar sounding to the Hitchcock classic Dial M for Murder, I thought this crime novel entitled Dial Me for Murder would be worth a read.
Paige Turner, a writer for Daring Detective magazine is intrigued about the death of secretary Virginia Pratt whose naked body was discovered in Central Park after having been suffocated with turpentine. Paige is miffed when her male chauvinist boss assigns the story to a male chauvinist colleague. She's again intrigued when she gets a call from a Sabrina Stanhope asking her to investigate the murder on her behalf and to make matters more complicated Paige is fired from her job. Investigating the murder of Virginia (who it turns out, was not just a secretary but also a high price call girl working for high class madam Sabrina) becomes an obsession for Paige and starts to cause conflict with her homicide detective boyfriend Dan who doesn't want her putting her life at risk anymore.
Dial Me for Murder is set in 1955 as is evident from the prologue of the book. I was amused to see no less than 60 people in the acknowledgements and it gave me my first feeling of many of a sense of overdoing things on the part of the author. From the first pages of the book I found it difficult to get into the story due to the heavily descriptive way in which the author opens the story. Normally when I start a crime book that I end up enjoying I find it quite easy to settle into the story and feel I can't put the book down. In the case of this particular book I was rather dismayed that it was chapter three before I had the feeling of "NOW I don't want to put this down" - even though chapter three starts on page 21of a 272 page book.
I did feel the author was overly descriptive quite often in the book when portraying that she was writing a book set in the 50s, there were a lot of references to celebrities or film characters of that era such as a "droll Eve Arden attitude" and mentioning the death of James Dean just days previously. I found these descriptive parts of the story slightly distracting which is probably why it took me so long to get hooked into the actual story.
Also I found the author went out of her way to show exactly how male chauvinistic Paige's colleagues were and it was just a bit over the top. She states that Paige Turner is a writer for a crime magazine and was given the position due to her ability to write articles which increased the readership of the magazine dramatically, so why then is she still treated so badly by the rest of the staff, i.e. pretty much all of her male colleagues? Being asked to bring tea and coffee for her boss and the rest of the magazine staff purely because she's a woman, I found the author went overboard in several places just to show how male chauvinistic almost all men were in 1950s USA. Funnily enough this didn't include the heroine's detective boyfriend Dan.
Those were the negative points from me. Aside from these niggles, once I got into the book, I found it a thoroughly good read and by the time I got to the end, I felt as if I needed to look up other books in the series which include titles such as Murder on a Hot Tin Roof, Murder is a Girl's Best Friend, Murderers Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Murderer. Even before reading the book, I found myself quite liking these titles, all being a play on words for famous films of that era.
The main character in the book is Paige Turner, deliberately given an amusing name by the author it seems but explained in the book by the fact that she was married to a man with the surname Turner who died shortly after their marriage. Paige is a feisty and comes across as being a woman ahead of her time but when it comes to romance the author makes it very clear that Ms Turner does not sleep around, and no matter how attracted she is to her detective boyfriend she has old-fashioned values when it comes to sex and wants to wait till they're married before she sleeps with him. I found myself alternating between quite disliking the character and finding her somewhat endearing but mostly I found her irritating. Still it didn't stop me from enjoying the book. Paige's best friend/neighbour Abby is a recurring character in the Paige Turner series as is Paige's boyfriend Dan as is Abby's on and off lover Jimmy and his dog Otto. The characters are explored in some depth in the book but none of them as thoroughly as Paige's character (thank God).
Did I like the character of Paige Turner? When reading a crime novel, I prefer to have some empathy with the main character or at least find them amicable. With Paige Turner, I swung between finding her somewhat amusing and wanting to punch her lights out a few times because of the choices she makes and also finding her quite endearing at times. On the whole, she's a likeable enough character.
As for the quality of the mystery, I was very pleased that I didn't guess who the culprit(s) was/were (no clues there for you sorry)! If I guess the ending I'm left feeling a bit disappointed aside from a bit smug but here there was no real clear path to guessing the ending which was a plus for me. Saying that it wasn't that the author threw in too many red herrings that it made it less readable - it was a good crime ending for me and the loose ends were tied up nicely!
All in all I did end up enjoying the book and once I properly got hooked in I didn't want to put it down. I do feel that this series is mostly aimed at female readers. Some of the detail in it was very female centric and it would definitely put most men off reading. It's getting a decent 4 out of 5 from me and I'll certainly be looking up other books in the series.
Dial Me for Murder is the 5th book in the Paige Turner series and was published in September 2008 by Berkley Prime Crime. The book has 288 pages and is available in the UK from Amazon.co.uk, abebooks.co.uk and in PDF format from cooler-ebooks.com. The ISBN 13 number is 978-025220504.
NB: Just in case you're interested; the author Amanda Matetsky is an American with a BA in English and a background in magazine editing before she became an author. Her website for more info is at: http://www.amandamatetsky.com/index.html where you can read more about her and her books as well as praise from other authors.