Author:Jan Christensen

ISBN: 978-1481139779

A few months ago, I reviewed a book entitled Staged to Death. The central character was a professional who perks up homes in an effort to enhance their potential for sale. Now comes Organized to Death, the central character of which is a professional organizer who clears clutter in an effort to enhance the productivity and comfort of property owners who prefer to stay where they are.

Tina Shaw, our professional organizer, started out to be a clinical psychologist, but gave it up in favor of finding solutions to easier personal problems. But she soon learns that life in Newport, Rhode Island is not as comfortable as she imagined once a friend is murdered, the victim’s sister’s husband shot, and the same husband, this time with his sister, run off the road. The irregularities of hometown life really strike home when Tina herself is almost done in by a serving of purposefully tainted egg salad. As three of the villain’s four targets manage to survive the assaults upon them, one might conclude that the misfeasor is also in need of organizational services.

Tina has three men in her life, but during the course of the novel, the field is effectively narrowed down to one. There is a rather sedate, but effective sex scene with one of the non-survivors.

Organized to Death is not a who-done-it, but rather a why-done-it because in a chapter that is surprising because of its brevity (four very short paragraphs) and early appearance (chapter 14 out of 47) readers are told who the villain is. This premature exposition does little to enhance suspense, which is surely an indispensible feature of any murder mystery.

Tina lacks the heroism helpful in the central character of a mystery thriller. In addition to her giving up a more meaningful line of work, she handles her domestic and romantic relationships in an erratic and unconvincing manner.

But more disturbing to this reader was the slackness of the narrative, which spreads excessive ink on the mundane details of ordinary living, of which there is certainly no shortage in Tina’s hometown. Every scene involving food, and most do, gives equal priority to ingestion and exposition. The line between helpful texture and excessive incidental detail is more often than not crossed in favor of the latter.

However, lovers of mystery novels, particularly those who are intrigued by an early disclosure of the culprit and who have the time and patience to follow the rather rambling thread of this story, could do worse than be organized to death. At the very least, there are some helpful and common sense tips on how to de-clutter your desk. And you’ll certainly learn that in perilous situations, your pocket is more serviceably furnished with a gun than with a worry stone.

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