Book Review – Double Shot

  • Title: Double Shot
  • Author: Diane Mott Davidson
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 02/19/2018

I really enjoyed Chopping Spree by the same author but was disappointed by Catering to Nobody which I read years ago. Unfortunately, the first half of this book reminds me of the later not the former. The first half of this book, especially the opening chapters have Goldy Schultz, caterer and amateur detective making a lot of stupid mistakes for plot reasons. The book starts with her heading to her new catering building, the Roundhouse, for a catering event, as she’s walking from her van to the door, she’s attacked, run down by someone on foot, and hit on the head. To her credit she calls the police right away to report the attack.

Now, if you had been attacked at your place of business – would you (a) sit and wait calmly for the police to arrive, (b) call your best friend for help, (c) call your insurance company, (d) go into your business – shoot up the place yourself, and then “clean up” destroying all evidence of the attack? Well, guess what our protagonist does. Hint: she acts like a dingbat. Yep, she calls her friend, then cleans up all the evidence of the attack – all the spoiled food, the broken glass, the mice – every thing.

This is monumentally stupid. As a business owner – she must have insurance on her building and equipment. If she doesn’t, she’s extremely dumb and naive. Also, she may have to carry the equivalent of malpractice insurance – what if she serves food to someone and they are allergic to it and they sue her? But no… Goldy decides to call her best friend, Marla, who arrives before the police (because apparently her little community of Aspen Meadow has the world’s slowest police department), and the two go inside – where they discover tons of damage. Everything in the cooler is spoiled because the cooler was turned off. Bags of mice are on the floor. Dishes and such are broken. Does she call her insurance company? Start taking pictures with her cell phone or a camera? Go back outside and wait for the cops? No – Goldy shoots at the mice with her handgun, then cleans the place up. She throws out all the spoiled food, disposes of the broken glass, lets the mice outside, and drops her gun in her unlocked van. Doesn’t this woman have insurance? Doesn’t she know you need to document damage if you want to make an insurance claim?

Goldy pushes through and puts together an improv catering event since all her prepared food is gone. The catering event goes reasonable well, but her ex-husband, released from jail on a technicality or something, harasses her outside, demanding she bring her son, Arch, for visitation outside the planned time and threatening her. Course, Goldy takes this to mean everyone will think less of her , so she agrees with her ex-husband’s demands.

When Goldy goes to drop off her son, though, her ex never answers the door. Goldy goes to check the garage and finds him dead. The rest of the novel is a standard mystery. There are plenty of clues and red herrings. Goldy is actually picked up by the police and questioned in the murder. This actually makes a certain amount of sense on the part of the police, especially given Goldy’s stupid actions earlier.

Double Shot rests on a series of family connections, old secrets, and rivalries. That part of the book works. The looming threat of forest fires permeates the rest of the novel. This “Checkov’s fire” does and does not actually get realized fully (the conclusion is set during the fire – but the fire never threatens Goldy’s home or place of business). And, unfortunately, nearly every detail of how forest fires in the US are fought is out-and-out wrong. For one thing, if the forest is in a National Forest US Forest Service fire fighters will be fighting that fire. They are paid Federal employees (with their own families, children, and bills) not volunteers. If the fire is on State land, most Western states have their own Fire Service (I know California does). But throughout the story, Ms. Davidson refers to the fire fighters on the Federal Wildlife Preserve as, “local volunteers from Aspen Meadow”. That’s not how it works. Even if a local department works on a fire, they will work with state and federal agencies. That is what an Interagency Fire Agency is for. But enough ranting, just because I have experience in supporting fire fighters as an admin/IT Tech…

Getting back to the book, Goldy and Marla precede to investigate – to clear Goldy, and to figure out who did them the favor of offing their ex. The perpetrator is an expert at laying false clues, exposing secrets, and throwing blame in a number of different directions. I liked that part of the book. I liked it a lot. If only the story had just picked up about 50 pages from where it did and followed that storyline, it would have been a five-star book. I’m not going to spoil who the killer is or why – because that is the best part of the book. The last few chapters of the book, as Goldy puts it together and tracks down a killer are well done. I hope that future Goldy Bear Culinary Mysteries are like Chopping Spree and not like this one.

To sum up, things I didn’t like about Double Shot: the protagonist, Gold Schultz, who is now married to a police officer and has solved mysteries for twelve books now, apparently has no idea how to act when victim of a crime herself, doesn’t bother to document damage to her business, never calls her insurance company, and thinks the best way to dispose of mice is to shoot them with a .38 handgun. Yeah, that will work. There are other issues – one of the secrets uncovered is a major crime that no one reported at the time, that essentially ruined the lives of several people in the novel, and seriously, exposing the person responsible for the crime, especially as there were witnesses, is a better solution than murder. One of the mustache-twirling villains of the book is a county health inspector, who acts in a very unprofessional and illegal manner, but who also, at one point grabs Goldy and hits her. That’s assault. This character did it in front of witnesses. Not only can Goldy have him fired – she can have him arrested. Government employees cannot go around beating up caterers. That’s just not how it works. The forest fire in the background really adds to the atmosphere of the story, but I truly wish the author had bothered to do at least some research – because she got everything wrong. Fires in National Forests are fought by the US Forest Service firefighters – some of the best in the world. Fires on state lands are fought by state fire services. Even local fire departments are usually professionals, not volunteers. The fire fighting methods weren’t detailed enough or really correct. But on the positive side, once the book gets in to the mystery it moves at a fast clip. the descriptions of food in this book are mouth-watering, it reminds me of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe novels in that respect. Here’s hoping the next one is better.