The Temporary Detective

The Temporary Detective
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Published: April 9, 2012
Author's Twitter: @joannelessner
Phones, light typing…and murder. Think breaking into show business is hard? Try landing a temp job without office skills. That’s the challenge facing aspiring actress Isobel Spice when she arrives in New York City, fresh out of college and deficient in PowerPoint. After being rejected by seven temp agencies for her lack of experience, Isobel sweet-talks recruiter James Cooke into letting her cover a last-minute vacancy at a bank. New to his own job, and recently sober, James takes a chance on Isobel, despite his suspicion that she’s a trouble-magnet. His misgivings are borne out by lunchtime, when she stumbles across a dead secretary in a bathroom stall. With her fingerprints on the murder weapon, Isobel sets out to prove her innocence by investigating the crime herself. While learning to juggle phone lines and auditions, she discovers an untapped talent for detective work—a qualification few other office temps, let alone actresses, can claim.

Reviewed 

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.

Books in this series:
And Justice for Some3
Bad Publicity2

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