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A REAL BASKET CASE
by Beth Groundwater
Five Star Press, March 2007
275 pages
$25.95
ISBN: 1594145474


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Claire Hanover is not happy with her life lately. Her kids are off at college, her husband Roger is always busy working at his new job and the gift basket-making business she started doesn't take up much of her time. Even when she complains to Roger he still refuses to come home at better hours and she finds she doesn't even cook anymore. Her old friends, Jill and Ellen, drag her to an aerobics class where the instructor, Enrique, is handsome and a flirt.

When Enrique starts to pay Claire a lot of attention, her friends take notice. Ellen, whose husband left her for a younger woman, urges her to take him up on it and have an affair. Jill is also having troubles in her marriage and voices the opinion that Enrique is a playboy who will have sex with anyone for money and that Claire should not have anything to do with him.

At first Claire refuses to even think of having any sort of fling after all she considers herself a good wife and mother. But soon Ellen gives her a gift of a free massage from Enrique and Claire accepts, but she makes it clear to him that she only wants a massage and nothing else. Enrique smiles a seductive smile, agrees and tells Claire that he will do only what she wants him to do.

After talking his way into her home and her bedroom, Enrique begins the massage. Claire finds herself enjoying it a lot. Then there's a loud bang, and Claire is completely unhinged as Enrique falls across her hips and blood pours all over her.

She manages to finally get up and calls in the shooting to the police. Then she hears her husband calling for her. When Roger goes into the bedroom he has a gun and Claire screams and the gun goes off. Claire thinks she will be shot next but the police enter her home and arrest Roger.

Confused and saddened, Claire can't believe everything that has happened, and when Roger tells her that he was framed, that he didn't kill Enrique and that he can't believe that she cheated on him, Claire finds that she agrees with Roger's claim that he was framed and is innocent.

Even though the police think that Roger did it, she vows to investigate on her own and clear him from the accusation of murder.

Though this book is written well in a clear and fast-paced way, there is little to like about it. Without trying very hard, I figured out who the guilty party was at page 50 and no matter how much author Beth Groundwater tried to muddy the situation, there was no reason for me to question my theory and it proved to be correct.

Claire is written as a juvenile-minded, spoiled housewife with nothing in her life but waiting for her husband to entertain her. Her first thought after learning that her husband might be imprisoned for life is to be horrified that she will be left alone in her home at night. There's no thought about his nights in jail, only complaints that she will be alone.

She also seems to know nothing about life. Every female reader over the age of 15 would understand what kind of guy Enrique was the minute he left Claire with the first drinks bill and saw how he acted with all the women around him. Even though Ellen gave her plenty of hints, it somehow came as a shock to Claire that Enrique had affairs with almost every woman in his class.

Writer Beth Groundwater also didn't seem willing to make a commitment as to the level of realism and danger she wanted in this story. Even when Claire gets herself into dire predicaments and gives them good reason to, the readers never get to know if we were supposed to think that something awful could actually happen to her or if the story is supposed to be wacky and silly.

Even with all of Claire's investigation, she never does figure out who did the crime. The guilty party has to confess to it completely before the truth finally occurs to her.

Because the solution was so obvious and the book never let on if it was supposed to be a comedy or a thriller, I still feel annoyed that I hoped for more as I wasted my time reading A REAL BASKET CASE to its end. I can't think that this is going to be a series since there's really no reason for the readers to be interested in Claire's sleuthing.

Reviewed by A. L. Katz, April 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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