REVIEW: Ukulele of Death by E. J. Copperman
After losing their parents when they were just babies, private investigators Fran and Ken Stein now specialize in helping adoptees find their birth parents. So when a client asks them for help finding her father, with her only clue a rare ukulele, the case is a little weird, sure, but it’s nothing they can’t handle.
But soon Fran and her brother are plunged into a world where nothing makes sense – and not just the fact that a very short (but very cute) NYPD detective keeps trying to take eternal singleton Fran out on dates.
All Fran wants to do is find the ukulele and collect their fee, but it’s hard to keep your focus when you’re stumbling over corpses and receiving messages that suggest your (dead) parents are very much alive.
Ukuleles aside, it’s becoming clear that someone knows something they shouldn’t – that Fran and Ken Stein weren’t so much born, as built . . .
The Ukulele of Death is the first in a new series of light-hearted, paranormal tinged mysteries that are filled with off-beat humor, heart and the wry wisdom that’s E.J. Copperman’s signature style.
Dear Mr. Copperman,
I was in the mood to read another murder mystery and saw this cover. Well … it’s kind of hard to miss it. The bizarre set up made me think it could be fun and why not try something new. I liked parts of it but mainly stuck with it just to see how much more convoluted it could get and why someone would pay $1.2 million for a ukulele.
Honestly this plot has more moving parts than a Rube Goldberg invention and at times makes even less sense. Fran and Ken Stein (get it, Frankenstein?) were “made” decades ago by two brilliant people – a scientist and a surgeon. Their “parents” were supposed to have died when the two were children, leaving them to the care of “Aunt Marge.” Now all grown up they are tall, strong, have hearing ability that cats would envy, and senses of humor that apparently haven’t changed since they were six and eight.
Fran has badgered Ken into joining with her to start a private investigative agency focusing on finding the real parents of adopted children. A woman comes to the office requesting that they help her find her real father and telling them the easiest way might be to locate a rare ukulele that he might have once owned and then trace the ownership back since now. After that, the plot goes haywire as, simultaneously, Fran and Ken start to believe that their “parents” are trying to get in touch with them but every lead is either a dead end or ties in with something or someone else that/who then needs to be tracked down. After a while, I gave up trying to figure things out and focused on what was being said or done.
There’s a reason why I was focusing on dialog or actions and that’s because Fran tells the story from her first person POV and Fran describes Everything. Whether or not we need to know, Fran will tell us. Often one sentence would be spoken per paragraph and the rest would be Fran describing something or snarking about something. By the time the next paragraph arrived with another one sentence in response, I would have forgotten what the previous paragraph sentence was and would have to look back up the page. This got old.
Fran speaks mainly in Sarcasm. When she’s not, she employs snark. She often opens her mouth and mouths off about something only to be wrong and need to back up or try and wheedle information from someone with intimidation or, when that also fails, occasionally she tries lies or as a last resort finally telling a smidgeon of the truth. This got old, too. Her brother Ken is amazingly obtuse, sometimes intelligent, and often annoying. Make that mainly annoying.
The plot was convoluted and often made no sense. How does A fit with B? Huh, for the longest time, it doesn’t. Just when something would happen with the ukulele stuff, the action would switch to the “parents.” Ken and Fran would need to discover something with almost no information but amazingly would be able to do this in a short amount of time. As I said earlier, the main reason I kept reading was just to see how it was finally going to be tied together. It finally did but then needed a sort of deus ex machina exposition to end it. There’s also a budding romance between Fran and a NYPD detective though why he puts up with her, I don’t know.
I can see this book working for readers who want a more lighthearted and “frothy” story with a unique background but should the series be continued, I have my doubts that I’ll read any further. C-