Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Careful What You Wish For by Hallie Ephron: Reading Room Review

Because Hallie Ephron writes stand-alone books, her stories always present fascinating new settings and casts of engaging new characters with intriguing livelihoods. And, each story revolves around a subject or theme that is fresh, nary a rerun or redo in the lot. Put all that together with Hallie Ephron's writing genius and knack for the creepy, and readers have tales that thrill from the beginning to the end. Hallie should really write a book about writing plots and mysteries and, oh, wait, she has. This author practices what she preaches, too. I've noticed that in my reviews for Hallie's books, I tend to include a statement about how hard they are to put down once you begin reading them. Careful What You Wish For had me reading well into the night and finishing as soon as I got up the next morning. Compelling read? Absolutely. In fact, this latest book may just be my favorite yet with its building suspense and perfect delivery of its resolution. 

Careful What You Wish For takes us into the world of professional organizers, those people who you pay to confirm your borderline hoarder status and to dig you out of the depths of clutter. Marie Kondo has many people scratching their heads and asking what sparks joy and what doesn't. Business is good for those who can step in and restore order to a disordered home, and Emily Harlow and her friend Becca Jain make an impressive team in this restoration. They are building up their clientele list for Freeze-Frame Clutter Kickers one disorganized home at a time when they suddenly gain two new clients over a weekend. Working weekends is not a normal practice, but adding customers is important, so they acquiesce to requests for the weekend meetings, and since Becca has weekend guests, it’s Emily handling the meetings. 

The first prospect is an older widow, Mrs. Murphy, whose husband liked to "collect" and has left her with an unexpected storage unit, contents unknown. The second new client proves to be someone Emily can totally relate to. Quinn is the wife of a wealthy man who has filled their home with antiques and collectibles that he is constantly in search of, but it is Quinn’s uncollectible belongings she needs the Clutter Kickers’ help disposing of. Since Emily’s husband Frank has filled their basement and attic with antiques and “treasures,” she has sympathy for Quinn’s situation. It seems Emily has found a kindred spirit in the husband dissatisfaction department in Quinn, and with the stress of infertility issues and a new business, Emily breaks the first rule of their business. Don’t get personally involved with the client should mean turning down a glass of wine, but Emily accepts Quinn’s offer. After all it is Emily’s favorite wine. From there it is a short trip to husband bashing and wishing the husbands away to the cornfield (Twilight Zone fans). But, it’s all in good fun, right? Emily makes her way home that evening in a bit of a wine haze but happy to have two new paying customers.

So, it should be a normal assessment and plan of action for two new clients, but there is nothing normal about these new customers. The immediate chumminess of Quinn and her attachment to Emily segues into a suspicious connection when Quinn’s husband turns up dead, and Emily’s conversation with Quinn about annoying husbands comes back to haunt Emily. Mrs. Murphy’s situation is proving to be problematic, too, with a storage locker full of questionable acquisitions whose provenance must be examined. The Clutter Kickers haven’t had to deal with criminal matters before, only clutter matters. Clearing up criminal clutter is dealing with hazardous materials requiring a different set of organizational skills.

Hallie Ephron is an author whom I can so easily recommend. She’s a repeat Mary Higgins Clark Award nominee finalist, her books are always on the must-read mystery lists. She writes domestic thrillers that are absolute page-turners. Careful What You Wish For is a read that will be well worth the anxiety you feel for Emily as she discovers that clutter in one’s life is not always as straightforward as it seems. Don’t let the summer end without organizing your reading list to include this book.

I was fortunate to receive an advanced copy of Careful What You Wish For, and I have given my honest and carefully considered review of it.

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