By Sarah Hayes, A&E Editor
Susan McBride’s “Say Yes To The Death” is a murder mystery set in the luxurious circles of Dallas but the murder does not happen until page 88. The book actually opens as Andrea “Andy” Kendricks is dragged to the wedding of a wealthy socialite couple by her equally moneyed mother, Cissy. Due to the power of circumstances, Andy actually knows two of the people there: Millicent Draper, a baker hired to make the wedding cake, whose pastries Andy has been eating since childhood and Olivia La Belle, the wedding planner who is often referred to as “La Belle From Hell” due to her charming personality and easy going work ethic, pfft.
Naturally, it is the monstrous La Belle who gets cut and Draper who is left holding the knife. Andy’s fiance Brian is a lawyer and works to defend Draper in court, but because this would not be much of a novel if the main character laid around and waited for the justice system to work, Andy goes full Nancy Drew, despite the fact that she is a freelance web designer and not a detective or journalist or anyone with experience in investigating people’s lives.
This book is the sixth installment in McBride’s “Debutante Dropout” series. Having not read any previous books, some of Andy’s references to past events flew over my head, but they never were a stumbling block in understanding the story, which for the most part was straightforward in its telling and its style. For a murder mystery, it is also surprisingly bloodless, and many of the plot twists become painfully obvious since Andy usually telegraphs her big mental breakthroughs in advance.
I have never been a big fan of the cozy murder mystery, and I do not read books set in the contemporary South that uses the setting as more of a funny backdrop than an actual setting that speaks to the reader beyond the usual hallmarks of big hats, big belt buckles, and big money. Unfortunately, “Say Yes” fits into both categories and therefore did nothing for me.
It also did not help that the main character represents everything she claims to hate about debutante society, minus the flash and frou-frou dresses. Andy instantly judges everyone she meets and mentally reduces people to stereotypes – the DBs/Dumb Blondes being her favorite target of ridicule. She is only sad about Millie Draper’s fate because the older woman makes great cakes. When her fiancee, who has been perfectly faithful, works in the same vicinity as ex-girlfriend Allie, all Andy can think is horrible thoughts about a woman who is nothing but professional in her capacity as lawyer, even going so far as to say that a beautiful woman being a lawyer is inappropriate. And she is our protagonist, the woman we are supposed to cheer for?
“Say Yes To The Death” is a mystery in the sense that it continually puts its character into convoluted situations to keep said mystery going and throws monkey wrenches into every quiet moment as if the book can’t figure out any other way to push forward the plot. If you like your murder plots in the form of mindless bubblegum lit with a Texan polish, there is nothing wrong with this new release from McBride, but there is also nothing making it stand out from the pack of new books coming out this September. One mercy is that this is a quick read, perfect for a road trip or long commute, which works fine for me , since once I got to know Andy and her crew, I did not want to spend much time with them anymore.