Bothari’s #CBR4 Review #37: Brewing Up a Storm by Emma Lathen
There’s no way to summarize this plot that will make it actually sound interesting, but really and truly, it was pretty good. It’s about a PR and marketing firm, and a scandal, and a lawsuit, and there’s some lawyers and congressmen and stuff. I told my boyfriend about it, and he kept asking “Were there aliens? How about ghosts?” But no. Marketing firm. Seriously.
A fictional beer company creates a non-alcoholic beer called Quax, and starts marketing it to minors and partnering up with fast-food companies. A whiny moms group starts organizing protests and boycotts, and then gets a big break (Head Mom Madeline is focused/obsessed enough to see it as such) when a 21-year-old boy is killed while driving drunk. Their argument is that if he hadn’t been trained as a teen to drink beer-like beverages like Quax, he wouldn’t have eased into alcoholism so quickly at 21.
Madeline annoys a lot of people in a very short time, and then is found dead in a closet. There are too many suspects and too many motives, and too many people trying to solve it to absolve themselves of suspicion. The book is billed as a John Thatcher mystery, so I gather that it’s a series, but marketing firm employee Thatcher wasn’t actually in it all that much. There are several batches of characters, and Lathen does a great job keeping everybody straight and keeping things moving. Her writing is very descriptive, and she has a gift for quick character snapshots that set the tone without bogging down in long explanations.
Sample passage (about a brewery employee and one of the suspects): “Alec slumped in the chair, totally motionless, his hands hanging from limp wrists, his rib cage collapsed onto his hips. He looked as if he had not only lost all hope, but half his skeletal structure as well.”
I enjoyed the writing very much, even if I’m not sure I’m sold enough on Thatcher to look for more of the series.