July 31, 2012
Joanne Lessner’s The Temporary Detective is one of those novels you just don’t want to stop reading, with characters well drawn and sympathetic enough to easily carry a full series. In the series opener, the quirky, delightfully headstrong Isobel Spice has just landed a temp job for which she is seriously under-qualified. She doesn’t let that stop her, though, basically steamrolling the hapless James Cooke — her supervisor at the temp agency — into letting her take on said job. Within hours, a very-disliked member of the staff turns up dead… And, of course, Isobel is the one to find her. What follows from there is a fun, clever whodunit with Isobel at the helm as she attempts to keep her new job, maintain her safety, and find the bad guy.
There are a number of things that make this novel a true gem, among them Lessner’s deft writing hand, sharp wit, surprisingly complex characters, and a clear understanding of Isobel’s world as a struggling actress new to the bright lights of Broadway. Add to that the kind of chemistry that just leaps off the page between Isobel and James, and you have a mystery well worth your time. Through all of that, I was also particularly impressed with the author’s ability to move seamlessly from comedy to romance to amateur sleuthing while simultaneously handling deeper issues like James’s very recent sobriety with a sensitivity uncommon to the genre. With that said, don’t mistake this for a novel with a deeper message; Lessner is delightfully irreverent throughout. This is an easy read that I cruised through in a couple of days, and I recommend it highly for anyone who enjoys cozy mysteries with a healthy dose of romance and a hint of New York edge.