Monday, July 31, 2017

Review: Party Girls Die in Pearls

Summary: The New York Times bestselling author of Bergdorf Blondes takes us back to the decadent 1980s in this comic murder mystery set in the tony world of Oxford University. It’s 1985, and at Oxford University, Pimm’s, punting, and ball gowns are de rigeur. Ursula Flowerbutton, a studious country girl, arrives for her first term anticipating nothing more sinister than days spent poring over history books in gilded libraries—and, if she’s lucky, an invitation to a ball.

But when she discovers a glamorous classmate on a chaise longue with her throat cut, Ursula is catapulted into a murder investigation.

Determined to bag her first scoop for the famous student newspaper Cherwell, Ursula enlists the help of trend-setting American exchange student Nancy Feingold to unravel the case. While navigating a whirl of black-tie parties and secret dining societies, the girls discover a surfeit of suspects. From broken-hearted boyfriends to snobby Sloane Rangers, lovelorn librarians to dishy dons, none can be presumed innocent—and Ursula’s investigations mean that she may be next on the murderer’s list.

Clueless meets Agatha Christie in this wickedly funny tale of high society and low morals, the first book in Plum Sykes’ irresistible new series. -- Harper

As part of my Mystery  Mondays posts, I am always trying to discover new-to-me authors and especially new-to-me series. So when I heard that Plum Sykes, author of BERGDORF BLONDES, wrote the first book in her Oxford Girl Mystery series, I knew I had to read it. The book is called PARTY GIRLS DIE IN PEARLS... and isn't the cover adorable?

PARTY GIRLS DIE IN PEARLS tells the story of Ursula Flowerbutton, a country girl who arrives to Oxford with some pretty lofty expectations of college life. She doesn't exactly fit in with the many rich and privileged kids who attend the school, but that's okay. She's planning on doing a lot of studying and joining many clubs. Having said that, she did bring her grandma's old gown in the hopes of being invited to a ball or two!

Things aren't entirely as Ursula expected at Oxford, especially when one of the most beautiful and popular girls is found murdered in a professor's quarters. Ursula is fascinated by the crime, and when she's assigned to cover the murder for the student newspaper, she's pretty sure she can make her mark at Oxford is she can only solve the crime. Fortunately, the American exchange student from New Jersey, Nancy Feingold, is more than willing to help Ursula.

It seems like the murder victim has made quite a few enemies, and Ursula's quest isn't exactly easy. There are many possible suspects including a boyfriend, ex-boyfriends, jealous friends, and even a professor. With her Nancy Drew like skills, Ursula gets closer to discovering the killer... and possibly putting herself in danger!

I really enjoyed PARTY GIRLS DIE IN PEARLS! It takes place in the 1980s at Oxford University. Right there, I was hooked because the characters were from my generation (I started college in 1987), and who doesn't love a setting like Oxford? The book is actually a pretty funny mystery with lots of sarcasm and satire. I think PARTY GIRLS DIE IN PEARLS is a terrific start to the series!

Ursula is a very likable amateur sleuth. She's a country girl, who at first glance, doesn't exactly fit into the culture of Oxford. However, she's a smart cookie and very persistent. I immediately found her to be charming, and I liked her interactions with her fellow students. I have no doubt that there's a great deal the author can do with her character in future installments.

As a child of the 1980s, I absolutely adored that the book took place during that period. Nancy, Ursula's American friend, is from New Jersey; and she's definitely "80s Jersey" right down to the tight dresses, bold eyeshadow, and big hair. I loved all of the 1980s references and found so many of them to be spot on... and terribly funny!

Finally, I really liked the humor incorporated into PARTY GIRLS DIE IN PEARLS. It's kind of an unusual book for the mystery genre. It's definitely got some cozy elements but it's actually much smarter because of the satire. In fact, I thought the various characters, especially the secondary ones, were extremely entertaining. Ursula's insight into the Oxford culture and everything that came with it were both insightful and hilarious.

Overall, I enjoyed PARTY GIRLS DIE IN PEARLS for a number of reasons, and I am looking forward to next book in the series. I definitely recommend this novel for fans of Ms. Sykes as well as readers looking for a modern, funny Nancy Drew type book!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.


bermudaonion said...

I love it when an author breaks the tension of a mystery with humor. This sounds great!

Test said...

I've been on the search for new mystery reads and this one seems like a great one to add to my list! I love when a book has an amateur sleuth. Also that's awesome that it has a humorous side as well. Wonderful review!