In Portrait of a Dead Guy, Larissa Reinhart introduces Cherry Tucker in a good old-fashioned who-dun-it. There are traces of sweet romance and a bit of suspense, but at its heart, Portrait is about finding out who the murderer is.
Cherry Tucker is a formally trained starving artist who chooses to move back to her rural Georgia roots rather than join some swanky artist colony in someplace “cool”. Cherry ekes out a living by combining chasing commissions for portraits with visiting her grandfather and sister at mealtimes.
When Cherry hears that the richest family in town wants a portrait of their murdered son in his coffin, Cherry can’t help herself from going after the job aggressively.
All Cherry has in mind is to paint the portrait and collect the sizable commission. But when she is conked on the head late at night alone in the funeral home with the deceased, Cherry makes it her mission to track down her attacker. She cranks up her efforts when the roommate of one of her friends is the next one to die. Think Jessica Fletcher transformed into a twenty-something, somewhat flighty Southern girl.
Forgive me the bad pun, but Reinhart paints a portrait of Cherry in words as well as Cherry paints in, well, paint. Bless Cherry’s heart, she is a fine mess. As sweet as her name, yes, but sweetly flawed. She simply can’t choose between two lovers; she goes back and forth between Luke and Todd as quickly as the clock ticks away seconds. Although in her defense, I’d find it hard to pick one of these fellows over the other myself. Cherry dukes it out verbally with the cousin of the deceased, who is an artist in her own right. Cherry is quite open about what she thinks about Shawna’s so-called artistic talent, not hesitating to call her out in public or private about the tackiness of what Shawna calls “paintographs.” I couldn’t always decide whether to cheer Cherry on or scold her!
Reinhart creates a great supporting cast of characters for Cherry, starting with her family—grandfather, sister, and brother—moving on to her boyfriends/one-time Vegas-wed husband in the vein of Brittany Spears’ first “marriage”, the crazy family of the fella in the coffin, and a smarmy car salesman. It might sound like a cliché—smarmy car salesman—but Reinhart pulls it off with the right amount of smarminess and very little cliché.
The pacing is fast, with enough twists and turns to keep me interested, but steadily enough that I did figure out the “who” of the who-dun-it myself, but not so soon that I lost interest in staying with Cherry until she finally figures it out, too.
Fans of this book will be happy to know that this is just the first of Cherry’s many adventures to come. I’ll be waiting to see what kind of bad guy Cherry takes down next.
Picture from http://henerypress.com
Portrait of a Dead Guy
Published by Henery Press
Copyright 2012 by Larissa Hoffman