RIDGE WRITERS ON BOOKS: ’Playing With Poison’ By Cindy Blackburn

Review by Judy Martin

RIDGE WRITERS ON BOOKS: ’Playing With Poison’ By Cindy BlackburnFemale readers of a certain age have to love a book that starts out, “Going bra shopping at age fifty-two gives new meaning to the phrase fallen woman.”

“Playing With Poison,” the first in Cindy Blackburn’s Cue Ball Mysteries, is a laugh-out-loud romp featuring romance writer Jessie Hewitt. Adele (pronounced Add-A-Lay) Nightingale is the pen name Jessie uses when writing steamy novels about her heroine, Alexis Wynsome, her hero, Rolfe Vanderhorn, and their nemesis, Maynard Snipe.

When Stanley Sweetzer, the boyfriend of her neighbor Candy Poppe, knocks on Jessie’s door in the middle of the night and drops dead on her couch, Jessie ranks as a murder suspect in homicide detective Captain Wilson Rye’s investigation.

To make her life even more miserable, Jimmy Beak, ambitious news reporter, and his film crew camp out on her doorstep and follow her wherever she goes. As annoying as Beak’s presence is, the national notoriety that accrues shoots Jessie’s book sales through the roof. Her agent, “Geez” Louise Urko, is thrilled and tells Jessie it would be “fantastical” if Captain Rye would arrest Jessie for the murder.

Jessie is less enthusiastic about her newfound fame. Much to the displeasure of Captain Rye, Jessie starts her own sleuthing campaign in order to restore her reputation and to remove suspicion from her friend Candy.

Jessie uses her expertise as a pool player to interview a host of potential suspects hanging out at The Stone Fountain, the local bar where Candy and Stanley were regulars and where they were drinking just hours before Stanley died on Jessie’s couch.

She uncovers a wild assortment of possible motives for Stanley’s murder, from jealousy to revenge for losing money in one of the financial investments Stanley recommended.

In “Playing With Poison,” Blackburn has sharply defined the characters and given them humorous, crisp dialog. The plot’s twists and turns keep the reader’s interest right to the end. Although the reader may not care very much about poor Stanley Sweetzer and, by extension, may not care who killed him, the characters and their quirky lives are sufficiently intriguing to keep the reader turning the pages.

“Playing With Poison” is fun to read and is recommended as stress relief for all adult readers. It is available in paperback format at fine bookstores everywhere and in Kindle format on Amazon.com.

Members of the Ridge Writers, the East Sierra Branch of the California Writers Club, write this weekly column. Meetings are held the first Wednesday evening of each month at Ridgecrest Presbyterian Church, and free programs are offered throughout the year. Ridge Writers’ book “Planet Mojave: Visions from a World Apart” is available at Carriage Inn, Jawbone Station, the Historic USO Building, the Maturango Museum, Red Rock Books and from www.planetmojave.com.

Story First Published: 2013-04-10