Jean Hastings always believed that she'd be happy once her children were out of the house, and she could devote her time to her beloved husband, Charles, a retired investment banker, and her fuzzy Keeshond friend, Pesty, along with hobbies that would please her for a change. Sure, not having to drive her offspring to various school activities, and sports practices is nice, but Jean is surprised to realize that she is actually suffering from...empty-nest syndrome. Suddenly, the change that she once craved has left her feeling unneeded and depressed. Charlie, happy with his discovery of golf - even though he manages to lose just about every game he plays - thinks that Jean needs something new to keep her occupied. A hobby, of sorts, that will take her mind off of being lonely. So he proposes an idea...she should turn her love of interior design into a business. After all, she has the know-how and the knack of the industry, and could really help out her Seville, Indiana neighbors with her knowledge of art deco, and whimsical furnishings. Enlisting the help of her daughter, Jean Jr., the two Jean's open up their workshop - Designer Jeans - and begin taking jobs throughout their hometown, as well as the greater part of Indianapolis. With their business well underway, they begin their quest for flea market bargains and treasures. When they land a job to redo the Sleepy Hollow Country Club's dining room, however, the Jean's throw all caution to the wind, and dive headfirst into their new assignment. Jean senior has always longed to turn the bland, old-fashioned dining room into something splendid that would truly make people's heads turn, and, with the help of Jean Jr., along with a perfect color scheme, and some well-placed decorations, the two Jean's are able to accomplish their task of turning the Country Club's dining room into a place of Art Deco splendor. But, on opening night of the newly refurbished dining room, the club's manager, Harrison Fowler, rises to make a toast, only to fall down dead - a series of gurgling sounds emitting from his lifeless body. Jean would simply write the death off as nothing more than a normal casualty. But, considering Harrison is the second person to kick the bucket in less than a week - the first being Harmon Brinker, owner of the local bookstore, The Book Cellar - Jean suspects foul play. Sticking her nose where it certainly doesn't belong, Jean begins doing a bit of digging into the mysterious deaths of two of Seville's prominent residents, and instantly turns up some interesting - if not altogether surprising - info. The only question Jean seems to keep stumbling upon, however, is how, exactly, the two deaths are connected; and why either one was committed. Now, in between searching for makeshift patterns, and elaborate color schemes for her next big project, Jean finds herself smack dab in the middle of a good, old-fashioned murder mystery. But, if she's not careful, she could find herself in a position most deadly at the hands of a killer.
I have never shown an interest in interior design, and easily prefer cooking over the dreaded thought of redecorating. However, I threw these thoughts out the window when I discovered Peg Marberg's debut FAUX FINISHED. The synopsis on the back cover was intriguing, and from page one I realized that I had made a fabulous decision in purchasing this book. While many mystery novels feature a slew of characters who rally around the heroine, Marberg keeps it simple by making Jean possess a personality comparative to that of a loner, providing her with a handful of acquaintances, but only a few very close pals - her sister-in-law, Mary, and daughter, Jean Jr. among them. This actually makes for a less-complicated read, as Jean hoofs it all over Seville and it's neighboring towns on her own, in an attempt to capture the killer. While I love Jean and her nonchalant, oft-times cynical outlook on everything around her, from her smoking problem to her sister-in-law's penchant for overeating, I was slightly baffled by the fact that Jean's title of resident amateur sleuth was already well-established, as opposed to being introduced for the first time. As this is the first book in the series, I felt that it was strange to be reading about Jean's prior girl detective escapades, and thought that FAUX FINISHED would feature her first foray into the world of investigations. That said, I don't feel that this slight peculiarity does anything to mar the book for readers, and only works to give us a better, more in-depth look into Jean's world. Featuring a collection of quirky characters, a town with enough charm to overwhelm, and some decorating tips that could help turn a room from bland to grand, Marberg's debut covers all the bases, and leaves readers eagerly anticipating the next installment into Jean's hectic life. The perfect design for a winning new series!