Short & Sweet Sundays: How to Party with a Killer Vampire by Penny Warner

Hooray for Sundays! In honor of this blissful day, I bring you a short and sweet review of Penny Warner’s How to Party With a Killer Vampire.

The gist: Presley Parker is an up-and-coming party planner for San Francisco’s A-list community. She’s what I would call the J.B. Fletcher of party planning. Whenever she makes an appearance at a black-tie affair, somebody inevitably drops dead.  This can be bad for business, so she must resolve the mystery before more partygoers are permanently knocked off the guest list! The mystery begins when a parkour athlete is found dead in the local cemetery, which just happens to be the venue for Pressley’s next big shindig. In case you’re not privy to this new-wave sport, it involves bouncing and flipping off of buildings and stairwells with no shoes. Weird, I know. 

Things go from bad to worse when Pressley stumbles upon the body of a party-crashing celebrity reporter at a lavish movie wrap-up party in a spooky graveyard. In true Murder She Wrote fashion, the murder takes place right after a heated argument between a big-time producer and the wannabe Perez Hilton.  Of course the producer is the most obvious suspect, but there’s plenty of shady characters with ample motives to knock off the reporter. Could it be the scandalous Hollywood starlet who’s desperately trying to keep her skeletons in the closet? Did her protective celebrity boyfriend resort to murder to keep their affair a secret? Or is it the crazy gun-toting cemetery groundskeeper? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

The love interest: Now this is interesting, the leading man in this series is an ex-cop turned crime-scene cleaner. Okay, so maybe a man who comes home smelling like entrails isn’t exactly a turn-on, but this guy is H-O-T and he can be downright resourceful when Presley needs to hunt down clues.

Most unique aspects: Although this is a fun and frothy mystery series, the author touches on two heavy-duty issues: ADHD and Alzheimer’s disease.  This is the first time I’ve ever encountered a main character in a chick lit novel with ADHD. Considering that millions of Americans (the Facebook generation especially) struggle to focus on a single topic for longer than a millisecond, ADHD is indeed an interesting element to weave into a story.  

The mother/daughter dynamic in this story is also very touching. Presley’s mother, a former party-planner and Hollywood socialite, has an acute case of Alzheimer’s disease. A big chunk of Presley’s party planning commission goes toward her mother’s ultra-expensive rest home.  Pretty depressing right? Wrong! The mom actually has a nice little life at the old folks’ home, which she considers to be a posh resort. Plus her dear daughter takes her out on “adventures” whenever she’s hosting glitzy red-carpet affairs. The mom makes a great sidekick, even though she tends to wander off when Presley is interrogating suspects.  

Added bonuses: Each chapter opens with a fun little party-planning tip for vampire-infused fiestas. Plus, Pricilla’s mom provides readers with some cool nuggets of information about the history of San Francisco. Here’s my favorite tip:

“Make your next Ladies’ Night a Vampire Party with a romantic twist to celebrate a birthday girl, bachelorette, or bride-to-be. Fill the room with black and red balloons, scented candles, and posters of Edward and Jacob from the Twilight series. Then have a vampire stripper make a surprise appearance.”

This book is best paired with: A champaign cocktail and leopard-printed fuzzy slippers.

Overall: If you like cozy mysteries with a lot of sass, great dialogue and a plot that flies – you’ll love this charming series. Presley is an endearing heroine and her rollicking adventures around San Francisco are entertaining. This is my first Party-Planning Mystery – and it certainly won’t be the last! I’m looking forward to the next book set in California’s wine country!