Vicki Doudera, A House To Die For

Posted October 26, 2011 by Kathy Davie in

A House to Die For (Darby Farr, #1)A House to Die For by Vicki Doudera
Series: Darby Farr, 1
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First in the Darby Farr mystery series revolving around a real estate agent named Darby Farr.

The Story
Darby Farr is a successful real estate agent in San Diego, California and every day she is happier and happier that she escaped her tyrannical Aunt Jane. Until the phone call that her Aunt Jane is dying and needs her help to close a sale. No matter how Darby argues, she just isn’t getting out of it.

As soon as Darby lands, trouble begins. First in the shape of Soames Pemberton and his first attack on her in the bathroom at the ferry landing. Then the deed restricting what had been thought a slam dunk on a multimillion dollar sale. A buyer found dead on the property of Fairview mansion and the suspected killer broken at the base of the cliff. A killer with an excellent motive…if anyone knew their shared history.

The Characters
Well, obviously, Darby Farr is the lead character. Strong with a sense of invulnerability. I mean, how dumb do you have to be to continually poke at a mad bear?? I do like her, though. She’s tolerant, smart, has a sense of humor, and is willing to examine her own actions. I suspect that Miles Porter, a financial writer for the London Financial Times, will be a regular although I don’t see how Doudera will justify it. Since he’s based in London. She is making a start by disclosing that Porter used to be an investigative journalist and has him both interested in Darby romantically and helping her with the current murder.

Lucy Trimble is a successful artist who has managed to kick her heroin habit—I’m jealous, for the successful artist part!—with several shows coming up. Her brother, Mark, seems to spend more time kickin’ it on his boat. Then there’s Tina Ames who has the low down on everyone on the island. She’s been working with Darby’s aunt, Jane Farr, for some time now even though Aunt Jane doesn’t seem to have told her everything about the Fairview sale. Laura Gefferelli is a sweet, low-key minister on the island who appears to be very involved in all sorts of do-gooding activities. Donny Pease is a minor character with a major part in Hurricane Harbor operations as its general handyman and caretaker; he’s also in a relationship with Tina. Chief Dupont is chief of police for Hurricane Harbor. He’s also a lazy asshole with low intelligence and a chauvinist but a good heart, I think.

Emerson Phipps is a surgeon about to close on the house of his dreams. He wants someplace that his sister and her two sons can feel safe and happy. I have to wonder his underlying reasons for being so excited about buying Fairview…

While Darby is the positive lead, Peyton Mayerson is the antihero. What a b*tch!! Sorry, I should probably say sociopath as she hasn’t a thought for right or wrong only for make Peyton happy. In trouble with the Mob, Peyton has to buy Fairview or she is in such deep doo-doo it doesn’t bear thinking of. I do so love the turnabout on her! It certainly creates some interesting opportunities for Hurricane Harbor. Soames Pemberton is the resident bad boy and I do NOT understand how he has gotten away with the things he’s done all this time! I certainly think less of Dupont—if that’s possible.

My Take
Dang, this is a busy little island!! And, in spite of the holes that kept opening up in the plot, an enjoyable read with its twin themes of money and revenge. Using real estate as the plot device enables Doudera to introduce a wide range of people which opens up the possibilities for crime exponentially. Very practical. Many of us love taking a peek into other peoples’ lives—such a lovely excuse for reading!—and real estate is such a voyeuristic experience.

Doudera had me jumping and guessing all over the place—I certainly kept expecting Donny Pease to either turn out to be the murderer or to get murdered!

Ooh, ooh, new bit of trivia [to me]:

Doudera mentions “enormous evergreens, a type that was once called ‘mast pine’ because of its usefulness to wooden sailing ships.”

Normally, an author presents the series’ continuing characters in the introductory novel. Considering Darby has a life on the West Coast, I’m not sure if we’ll be seeing all the characters in this story again or if Darby’s life will imitate her aunt’s?

That said, Darby is both inquisitive and impatient to be out of Hurricane Harbor although, as she considers life with Aunt Jane from the perspective of an adult, that impatience slows down. Another indicator that life is circular.

The Cover
The cover is of a gorgeous mansion with more roof levels than it knows what to do with and lots of gingerbread placed at the very edge of a cliff and hemmed in by evergreens and trees. So I reckon the cover artist got it right in that it’s a beautiful house and there’s a cliff overlooking the water. She obviously didn’t read the book as how the house is placed is wrong and there isn’t a fence.

As for the title, oh yeah, all things considered, it is A House to Die For as people certainly are doin’ that.

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