Trashy Chic by Cathy Lubenski

There’s no doubt investigative reporters make the best detectives. They’re nosey, they’re ballsy, and they’ll stop at nothing to chase down a lead. But sadly, in this digital age, the Woodwards and Bernsteins are falling to the wayside as more and more readers are turning to short online blurbs for their daily news.

Cathy Lubenski, a veteran reporter for the San Diego Union-Tribune, is all too familiar with the sad state of journalism. Her main character, Bertie Mallowan also happens to be a journalist for a Southern California daily, and is struggling to stay afloat in a rapidly shrinking industry.

Much like Lacey Smithsonian (the crackerjack fashion reporter in the Crimes of Fashions mysteries), Bertie has a passion for hard news, but she’s stuck writing fluff. But just when she couldn’t bear to write one more piece about overpriced home décor, she stumbles upon a mystery that could put her back on the front page.

It all begins when Bertie interviews Robert Bellingham, the CEO of a multimillion-dollar luxury items empire,  just days before his murder.  With inside information about Bellingham’s twisted family, she’s thrust into the middle of a big story.

Things get complicated when Bertie encounters a slew suspects with ample motives to knock off the king of unnecessary high-end crap. Who stood the most to gain from Bellingham’s death? Let’s take a look at some of our suspects:

Robert “R2” Bellingham II: A pudgy little man with serious anxiety and resentment issues. Did he knock off his own father to take control of the empire? Why was he hauling a big bag filled with hair into his father’s corporate office?

Gardener: Living up to his name, this suspicious character tends the Bellingham mansion’s gardens. With his smoldering good looks, he can have any woman he wants, even Bellingham Jr.’s trophy wife. What’s the story behind his anger management problem? And why were his shoes splattered with blood at the scene of the crime?

Lester Lomax: Gardener’s lawyer. After a scary encounter at a bar, Bertie finds out the hard way that this sleazeball is more than capable of cold-blooded murder. Did he help his client orchestrate the perfect crime? And is he the dark shadow lurking outside Bertie’s window at night?

Delia Bellingham: R2’s philandering trophy wife. This little tart has a twisted agenda for sleeping around with the mansion’s gardener. Did she railroad her boy-toy to get her hands on the family fortune?

Bella Bellingham: The black sheep of the Bellingham family. Shunned from the family mansion, she spends her days locked up in her shabby apartment cooking weird luxury-item concoctions. She seems obsessed with her inventions…perhaps a little too obsessed.  

Gigi Bellingham: Bellingham’s wife. Obsessed with money, Botox and social status, she’s used to living the good life. It’s no secret her husband would rather hop into bed with a bimbo du jour than have sex with his own wife.  But did his womanizing ways finally set her off on a murderous rampage?

The tightly-plotted mystery is great, but what I really love most about this book is the humor. There were some scenes that had me laughing out loud, like when Bertie hid a cricket in her editor’s office just to mess with her. I also enjoyed the part when her boss reprimanded her for making rude faces. To make him go away, she told him that the grimacing was a result of a chronic flatulence disorder – LOL! 

Overall, this is one fine mystery laced with humor, romance and fabulous characters. I instantly liked Bertie, probably because she’s obsessed with chocolate moon pies, hates her alarm clock, and makes terrible mistakes in the love department. I’m also a big fan of Bertie’s best friend, a former zookeeper who runs a high-class dog obedience school and kennel. Much like my own best friend, she won’t hesitate to come to Bertie’s rescue – even if it means putting herself in mortal danger.

This talented new author can really tell a story that gets you to know and love the characters. I will be watching and waiting for the next installment in this fabulous new series! Keep ‘em coming Cathy!

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