Title: The Corpse Wore Stilettos
Author: MJ O'Neill
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Length: 246 pages
Publisher: Red Adept Publishing, LLC
Publish Date: April 30, 2019
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Disclaimer: I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you to BookSirens and Red Adept Publishing, LLC for this free copy.
I knew there was a reason why I was liking cozy mysteries. I would totally count this one as a cozy mystery because no sex and the content wasn’t super heavy. Although I will say I’m curious to know whether or not this is going to have a sequel, because that’s what the Epilogue sounded like it was setting up.
Katherine “Kat” Waters serves as our protagonist in this novel. She has a Riches to Rags story that we don’t really know about yet. The only backstory we have is that her father was apparently accused of being involved in the mob, although none of the other women in the family seem to think so. He’s been in jail for over a month, and Kat has had to get a job at the morgue to ensure that her mother and grandmother (affectionately called “Grand”) don’t wind up homeless. Even though she was a graduate of Harvard – top of her class – in Art History, her minor in Biology and her skills with makeup give her special skills needed to work in the morgue. It actually works out for her because she is not skirmish of dead bodies, and wants to be able to learn the story that each body tells her. I believe she may also suffer from Tourette’s Syndrome, as she has the tendency to blurt out random – but seemingly useless – facts when she gets nervous. I may be wrong though, so please correct me if I’m wrong. This tic reminded me of Vincent Nigel-Murray from the TV show Bones.
Burns McPhee is one of the gentlemen that tries to take a look at the latest corpse that Kat is in charge of overseeing when – plot twist – the body gets snatched by a third party. He is very good at his job when it comes to providing security, and seems to genuinely care about Kat’s safety and well-being. Whether it’s because he sees Kat as a challenge or because he’s just trying to do his job seems to be up for debate, but that doesn’t seem to hinder any parts of the story. He is one of the men that seems to be vying for Kat’s affections, and the fact that she has lost her money doesn’t seem to deter him – or any of them – in any way.
The rest of the side characters help to keep the operation going. For me, I wasn’t able to really bond with any of them except for maybe Neutron, and even then I don’t really know about him. I think I just felt for him because people constantly underestimated him because he looked so young. Then there was Grand, who is a cranky but sharp old lady if I ever met one. She’s a feisty one too.
Everything seems to stem from the fact that Kat’s father was arrested due to his alleged connections to the mob. The police don’t seem to know which mob family, and apparently it seemed to have come out of nowhere, but this arrest affected the family so dramatically that they are indeed in poverty. That connection seemed to lead to Kat being framed for the Jane Doe being snatched because an anonymous tip was called in just minutes before saying that she was in on it. Clearly, someone else in the Morgue is out to get her, and she doesn’t know why.
From there, the mystery continues and Kat and the gang work together to find out who the missing Jane Doe is, what happened to her, and why Kat was framed. Kat using her deductive skills to solve the clues in front of her, and gets into some trouble along the way thanks to her sidekick DC. I wouldn’t call her a damsel in distress though, because it seems like she can handle herself a little more than some others can. She just wants to make sure she’s dressed stylish for the part, regardless of her current economic status.
Romance was definitely not a big deal in this novel, which I appreciated as it kept with cozy mystery theme. There was a very quick, one liner about how a character was murdered, but that was the extent of it being graphic. The plot flowed well enough.
I really liked that Kat could stand on her own. I know she was going through an anti-men phase at this point, but she was able to let go of that to work with Burns and the other guys in his team. She also never dumbed herself down to make any of the men she interacted with feel smarter than they really are. She was smart, but she also knew that she could learn more. I don’t really know where she learned all of her facts from, but they did have something to do with the topic at hand.
I also liked that despite being in such a terrible situation, she never made her mother or her Grand feel like it was their fault – it really wasn’t. She did whatever she could do to take care of them, because it seemed like they were still in shock at not being wealthy anymore. She left a high profile job in Boston to be back with her family in St. Louis, and completely uprooted her life after her father’s arrest. Sure, there are some quirks that the women had – what family doesn’t? But as Kat said, the Waters women stick together, and that’s what they did.
Parts of the story line seemed to move a little too fast. Not that I couldn’t keep up, but it just felt a little choppy. It didn’t take away from what was going on for the most part, but it still bothered me as I was reading it. I also didn’t like how it seemed like DC was just the comedic relief. He was smart, he worked in the morgue too, but he would get into situations that were just completely unnecessary. He did have some redeeming qualities towards the end, but I just felt like he was cheapened to be the funny guy. It didn’t help that he was also the only POC character and he was made like a guy that couldn’t handle stressful situations without wanting to run to his mom.
I think this made a good introduction to the world of Kat Waters and what has happened to her life after her father’s arrest. Like I mentioned earlier, the Epilogue sets up a sequel, although I’m not seeing word of a sequel in GoodReads. I’m curious to see if the author does have one planned, because as of right now the story doesn’t seem to wrap up in a good way. There are a lot of loose ends, and while the case of the missing Jane Doe was semi-solved, there’s a bigger case in the background that there’s so much more to learn. I do hope that there is a second one, and I’m curious to see how Kat and the gang grows.
Additional Disclaimer: I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.