’A Box of Pandora’

Ridgewriters on Books

’A Box of Pandora’The title of this cozy mystery, “A Box of Pandoras,” plays on the mythical Pandora’s Box which, when opened, unleashed all unhappiness and trouble on the world.

Pandora is also the name of the fictional hometown in New Mexico of the book’s heroine, Loretta Kimball. Loretta embodies the curiosity of her town’s eponym and her inability to mind her own business unleashes all manner of trouble on those around her.

Besides being wife to Harley Kimball, third-generation owner of Pandora’s Kimball Feed and Hardware Store, Loretta is president of the International Michael Girard Fan Club.

When she learns that her life-long screen idol, Michael Girard, will be guest of honor at the new Santa Fe Silver Screen Society Film Festival, Loretta arranges with Girard’s personal assistant, Hilda Schmidt, for a private interview with the famed actor.

Loretta gets Harley to escort her to Santa Fe for the film festival. Alas her archrival since high school, Mitzi Tyner, also attends the festival. For once in her life, Loretta is determined not to be upstaged by her nemesis. As in most fan club conventions, numerous curiously dressed characters and Hollywood stereotypes throng the hotel lobby.

The film festival proceeds in disorganized chaos and everyone blames everyone else. But when Maria Mondragon, New Mexico Film Commission liaison, is found murdered in Michael Girard’s suite, Loretta realizes she must do whatever is necessary to keep the media from portraying Girard as guilty, or worse yet, as a has-been.

The characters in the book are well drawn. The rapport between Loretta and Harley is clever, revealing mutual respect between husband and wife, albeit tamped with humor. Loretta is slightly overweight, somewhat disorganized, an enthusiastic fan, while Harley is tall, muscular, calm, and all “get’r done” business.

The plot provides plenty of twists and turns with first one and then another suspect vying for prime position. Overall, “A Box of Pandoras” is a fun read. One potential drawback to this cozy is the author’s choice of expletives. The “f-word” is used by two characters. Further, Brewer uses the word “Jesus” as an expletive by several different characters. These choices might seem acceptable in hard-boiled fiction but in a cozy mystery they seem distinctly harsh. The reader may be jarred out of the requisite suspension of disbelief, not a result most mystery novelists desire.

This weekly column is written by members of the Ridge Writers, the East Sierra Branch of the California Writers Club. Meetings are held the first Wednesday evening of each month at High Desert Haven, and free programs are offered throughout the year.

Story First Published: 2012-10-10