While house hunting with her realtor friend one day, Juliet stumbles upon a dead body in the bathtub. The owner of the house, who is the victim's brother, retains Juliet to help investigate the case. Along with her partner, Al, Juliet starts digging into the life of the deceased, an out-of-work actress named Alicia Felix.
Juliet interviews Alicia's former co-workers, ex-boyfriend, and anyone else with a possible connection to the crime. At the same time, the mother-to-be is trying to cope with her out-of-control appetite and ungainly shape, while also tending to the needs of her husband and young children.
"Murder Plays House" has its moments. Juliet is witty and sassy, and Waldman's wry humor and satirical treatment of the shallow L. A. culture are right on target. The author has a go at the trendy fashions, the insane desire to be thin at all costs, and the desperation of marginally talented actors to make it in show biz.
Waldman has trouble, however, balancing her lighthearted humor with the book's tragic elements, most of which are introduced in the second half of the novel. The carefree tone of the book's opening gives way to a somewhat somber and preachy ending. Although the plots of the "Mommy-Track Mysteries" are only passable, I keep reading them because of my fondness for Waldman's irresistible and down-to-earth heroine, Juliet Applebaum.
If you're looking for a mystery novel that is full of snappy dialogue and that takes a humourous look at the life of a young(ish) mother in LA, you're bound to enjoy "Murder Plays House." Juliet is an engaging and taking character, and her attempts to be the perfect mother and understanding spouse, while trying to juggle a career as a private detective and her own needs, were truly funny and entertaining to read. However, mystery-wise, things were a bit of a let down. For example the mystery subplot was not all that well developed, and actually unfolded in a rather uneven manner, at the expense of the "mommy-track" subplot. Leads and suspects pittered out very quickly, so that when Juliet finally solved the case, it felt as if luck more than deduction was key to resolving everything. Though I will admit that because of the snappy dialogue and Juliet's engaging accounting on what it was like to be an average mom amongst the LA rich, "Murder Plays House" turned out to be a lively read. Also well done was the commentary on the lengths that some will go to in order to remain as young looking and as thin as possible. So that while the mystery angle left a bit to be desired, the storyline and narrative style made "Murder Plays House" an enjoyable yet sobering read.
After inspecting the home and loving every inch of it, Juliet looks in the guest house where she finds Alicia Felix, the owner's sister, dead in the bathtub, her body knifed countless times. When she talks to Felix about buying the home he tells her he is grieving for his sister and is not ready to move. Juliet agrees to represent Felix and his lover Farzad in their dealings with the police; she and Farzad agree that she will be given special consideration to buy the house if she finds the killer. It's not easy being eight months pregnant and conducting a homicide investigation but Juliet tries anyway.
Ayelet Waldman's mommy Track mysteries get progressively feistier and wittier mainly due to the situations the protagonist finds herself in. Juliet is outrageous as she investigates and sometimes with her two children accompanying her interviews a suspect who might yield information that will lead to the killer. MURDER PLAYS HOUSE is a well thought out mystery that uses a social problem as the basis for the killing. Readers will adore Juliet and her two (no make that three) munchkins.