Saturday, June 26, 2010

Scene Stealer by Elise Warner

A frightened young boy on the New York subway catches the eye of Miss Augusta Weidenmaier, a retired schoolteacher living in Greenwich Village. When she realizes that he is the abducted star of a series of fast-food commercials, she decides, Miss Marple style, to tackle the investigation into his disappearance herself--and plunges into the acting world with the determination to find the boy, bring about justice, and correct everyone's grammar.

Scene Stealer is a e-book due to be released on June 28, 2010. As such it's hard to give an exact page count, but it's under 200 which makes it a fast read. The writing lends itself to quick reading; it's fluid, stronger on dialog than on character and setting, with an engaging heroine who, like most lady sleuths, is nothing if not opinionated. I definitely detected a touch of the Amelia Peabodies in this character.

Like many books in the cozy mystery category, it has a slightly surreal timelessness. People still use pocket handkerchiefs--and even, at one point, a pocket watch!--and only swear in the mildest of terms. It was only when texting from a cellphone was mentioned towards the end of the book that I was 100% sure I wasn't in the New York of the 60s or 70s. The characters are somewhat stereotyped: failed actor, horrendous stage moms and spoiled teenage starlets, ruthless corporate types. I'd love to see a bit more nuance and depth of characterization, but I have the feeling we could see Miss Weidenmaier again so perhaps some secondary characters will be developed along the way.

Verdict: this is a nice beach read (if you can bring yourself to take a $200 e-reader to the beach) or entertainment for your morning commute. I began by finding Miss Weidenmaier irritating, but warmed to her in the course of the story, especially once she stopped trying to correct everyone's speech (a habit I find patronizing). I could read more of her.


Elise Warner said...

Dear Jane Steen:

Miss Weidenmaier and I would both like to thank you for your review of Scene Stealer. If anyone wants to read my cozy at the beach, I heard that you can safely place your eReader in a plastic bag.


Elise Warner

Debuts & Reviews said...

I have purchased Scene Stealer and am looking forward to reading it. Fortunately, I don't usually read genres which feature horrible stage moms and teenage starlets, so I probably won't find them stereotypical. :)

Jenny Schwartz said...

I think I remember a couple of stage mum, child star cosies by Marion Babson. She's a lovely cosy writer, esp if you like cats.

Hearing a resemblance to Amelia Peabody is a huge tick in the buy column :)

Jane Steen said...

Yow, it's not often that the author makes an appearance in our comments! I'm not a huge reader of cozies so my remarks do not stem from expertise in the genre. But I notice that when I DO read them, I devour them like chocolates... a little refreshment for a tired brain. More power to your pen, Ms. Warner.