Tuesday, May 13, 2014

REVIEW: "A Foolish Plucking" by Dee Wilbur

Yeah, Gary is a womanizer and a boozer, but is he a murderer, too? The police sure think so. True, they don’t have a body, but they do have the big fight between Gary and Alice, his wife, at the country club. And they do have Alice’s blood on the wall behind the bed. And in the shower drain. And in the back of Alice’s Escalade. Unfortunately for Gary, the jury sides with the police and gives him life without parole.

Melissa, Gary’s mistress, brings him another surprise; she is pregnant. She and their daughter move to Richmond, hoping to leave the Scarlet A behind them in Dayton, trading one small Texas town for another. Melissa enlists Jon Miller as attorney to get Gary a new hearing.

Sandy had married Jon without meeting his family. She doesn’t realize that while Jon solves Gary’s problem, she and Jon will struggle with a family crisis involving their sister-in-law.


Beatrice Dee Pipes and Charles Wilbur Yates, Jr. write under the pen name Dee Wilbur, a combination of their middle names. This is their second work of fiction. A Texas native, Dee Pipes grew up in a small Texas town. Her degree from Rice University is a B.A. in English. She currently runs a company that helps other companies with marketing, project management, and other tasks. She has been married to her husband Bryan for thirty years. Also a native Texan, Charles Yates, Jr., was also reared in a small Texas town. He graduated from Rice University in Houston with a B.A. and Ph.D. in Biology. He received the M.D. degree from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas. He has been married to his wife Sally for forty-five years. They have four adult sons and six grandchildren. He now tends his garden in Richmond, Texas.


I received a copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review, which follows.

Prosecuting a murder should be a relatively straight-forward operation: figure out how and when the person was killed, the murder weapon, who was present, etc.  As anyone who watches crime dramas regularly can attest, however, prosecuting a murder is rarely "relatively straight-forward."  But what do you do when the one thing you need to examine for sure is missing....the body?

A fairly quick read, this little book with a plot worthy of Matlock is another installation into the crime series by Dee Wilbur.  Riveting plot, quirky characters, drama drama drama...  A man fights with his wife, passes out drunk on their front porch, and wakes to find himself in the middle of a murder investigation seeking to pin him for the death of his wife.  There's just two major problems - he knows he didn't do it and the body is missing.  Can the legal system really put him in jail for a murder it can only prove on the basis of circumstantial evidence?  Well, read the book and you'll see!  There isn't much for character development when it comes to the main characters, but this is the 3rd book in a series - you can read the first two books for that.  What you will find is an attorney entangled in an interesting legal battle where his womanizer, boozer client may not have actually "dunit" while he and his wife are simultaneously entangled in a difficult familial situation where one woman's extreme mental illness may spell disaster for her husband and children in more ways than one.  There are some editing issues, as well as extremely long dialogue scenes that made my head spin a bit (a stylistic choice that isn't my favorite, but there ya go), but all in all this is a really good book.  Warning: the ending will make you want more!

On an ascending scale of 1 to 5, I rate this book a 3.  

The Good
I love good mystery books, particularly when they leave me lifting my lower mandible up off the floor like this one did.  :P  Seriously, my jaw dropped at something near the end.  Not the major "whodunit" (I kind of figured that was going to be the conclusion), but something else....something that also made me go "Darn you, Dee Wilbur!"  Let's just say there's a smidgeon of a cliff hanger.  

What do we have here?  Well, a guy gets into a major blow-up argument with his wife in front of the social elite in their Texan town during a Valentine's Day get-together at a local country club.  After passing out on the floor of the club, the guy gets a cabbie home and proceeds to pass out on the porch of his house (couldn't do that in MN in Feb - he'd wake up with frosty appendages).  When he wakes up, he finds himself embroiled in a battle with local police and prosecutors as they attempt to put him behind bars for the murder of his wife.  There is one thing the prosecution lacks - a body.  Does this stop them? Nope.  Oh, and to make things infinitely more complicated, the man's mistress announces that she's carrying his child.  Oh boy. 

Can Jon get to the bottom of what is going on with this murder case?  Maybe, but what about when you throw in the fact that he and Sandy are dealing with some family drama of their own?  You see, Jon's brother has a wife who is having difficulty that is negatively impacting her relationship with her husband, their children, and her husband's campaign to keep his judge seat.  Just small things like that.  

Nothing about this book is small, except maybe it's physical size.  Big issues, big problems, big solutions, etc.  I'd make a Texas joke but I'm from Alaska, where everything is bigger.  :P

As in the previous books, the writing is very efficient and straightforward.  Few superfluous words exist.  This is part of why a huge and complicated story fits into a relatively small book.  

Character development progresses fairly well.  I enjoyed picking up Jon and Sandy's story again, particularly as we get to see them grow together a bit since their marriage in the previous book.  It was also good to see how some of the other character progressed (particularly Diego....let's just say he gets himself into a bit of a hilarious pickle).  The new characters are developed just right considering their short stints in the overall story line.  I do wish there was a bit more about the legal secretaries' lives considering how much time was spent on them in the previous book, but there is plenty of time for that.  

The plot itself is fantastic.  I won't lie - I figured out the whodunit fairly early on (I've spent much time with my nose buried in mystery books, there isn't a lot that will surprise me when it comes to whodunit....this is part of the reason I refuse to write such a book), but I thoroughly enjoyed how the story unfolded.  While the ending itself didn't surprise me a whole lot (there are some foreshadowing bits tossed in here and there early on that clued me in to what was going to happen), the journey to get there was full of lots of surprises that kept me riveted.  :)

All in all this is a very "real" book - I could actually see each and every thing here happening (maybe certain characters are a little strong-handed in getting other characters to do something), including all of the things with the legal system.  It is intriguing, riveting, and develops characters well - all in all a pretty good book.

Oh...and just a random note - this book is fairly stand-alone, but less so than the previous two in the series.  It would help to have read the previous two books - at least Justice Perverted.  

The Bugly (bad/ugly)
I'm a tough grader.  I've made noises about teaching writing classes, and my husband's response has been, "those poor students".  When pressed, he'll state that I'm really hard on writing.  He's right!  Keep that in mind as you read this section. 

The reason that I gave this book a 3 instead of a 4 is because several of the problems I point out in the first two books (A Jealous God, Justice Perverted) are present here as well, and are glaring enough that sometimes I found myself too distracted from the amazing plot:

  • Again, there are not enough indicators of "he said BOO" and "she said EEEK".  There are more than in past books in the series, so I didn't get as lost all of the time....but enough that it was distracting, especially because punctuation was not completely consistent and so I couldn't always rely on paragraph indentation to figure out who was talking.  
  • The characters all sound like each other.  Very efficient, no wasted words.  I wouldn't have an issue with this (my husband is one who has a very efficient speech pattern), except that EVERYONE talks that way.  This is part of what made it a little difficult to figure out who was talking...everyone's speech pattern was exactly the same.  
  • Too much dialog, not enough other stuff.  Same as the last book.  This is purely a stylistic preference - I am not a huge fan of a HUGE majority of a fiction book being dialog.  I liked the first few chapters of this book in particular a lot because dialog was well balanced with the rest of the text, but after the scene was set, it was mostly dialog.  Very efficient, clipped dialog.  Part of the reason this bugs me is because this style doesn't leave a lot of space for exploring what is happening inside of characters' heads....which is half of the reason why I read - I like knowing what characters are thinking (I am someone with a background in psychology, after all).
  • Some of the forensic stuff just didn't mesh really well in my head - wouldn't the original forensic people have realized some of what the later forensic person realized?  Wouldn't the same tests have been run?  

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