by Cynthia Chow
With another movieless weekend behind us, here is another book review in place of Monday Movies. Why not curl up with a good book this week instead of heading out in the heat!
One would have thought that being Frank Michaels of Channel Three’s Frank Finance Show would mean that “Mr. Finance” would be the least likely to fall victim to a Ponzi scheme. Unfortunately, for Maddie Michaels though, her husband did invest all of their savings with an investor who promptly stole all of their money, leaving it up to Maddie to figure out a way to scrimp and save and not have Frank risk losing his reputation and job at the television station due to his poor judgment. Maddie achieves this through her unexpected popularity as “Mrs. Frugalicious,” an anonymous blogger who writes about how to save money through coupon clipping, web deals, and smart shopping strategies. Even Maddie’s family is unaware of her identity, as she wants to protect her teenaged sons from their precarious situation and her husband’s ego is already in a fragile state.
It is one of her strategic shopping attacks through the South Highlands Valley Mall that has her on an expedition through the store Eternally 21 to purchase bargain gifts for her nieces. Unfortunately, her note taking causes some confusion and the store manager Laila DeSimone accuses Maddie of shoplifting and hauled off by security. A literal run-in with the store’s other employee at the food court soon after reveals that Laila was disliked by nearly everyone in the mall, but when Laila collapses in front of Maddie it is she who becomes the number one suspect.
Completely determined too solve the mystery before her identity is disclosed to the press and possibly cost her husband his chance on a prosperous new show, Maddie implements her methodical bargain hunting skills to hunt down the suspects who may have wanted Laila dead. Using a possibly illegal eavesdropping device, Maddie listens in on the conversations of mall employees, store competitors, and Laila’s married boyfriend.
Maddie’s detective skills rely more on either secretly listening in on them or following them around the mall, so it is her family life and incredible “Frugalicious” skills that make this novel so entertaining. One wonders at Maddie’s hiding her identity from her husband and sons, as in these economic times being frugal and not consuming conspicuously are traits admired even among the wealthy. Maddie allies herself instead with the mall security guard, the appropriately named wannabe police officer Griff Watson, and personal trainer Chelsea Charles who text-nags Maddie into working out while providing herbal Bye Bye Fat pills.
This first Mrs. Frugalicious Shopping Mystery is less of a mystery than a strong women’s fiction novel that shines when it focuses on Maddie’s interactions with her sons and the absolutely fascinating shopping hints that are footnoted throughout. Anyone who has found themselves glued to an episode of Extreme Couponing will enjoy Maddie’s coupon assault on a grocery store, though one wonders why her family hasn’t seemed to clue in on her having a mini-warehouse of supplies in their basement. Maddie’s enthusiasm for detecting to protect her family has her making some questionable choices, and she nearly makes a fatal mistake when she incorrectly identifies the murderer. However, by the finale many of the questions a reader may have concerning Maddie are answered in an ultimately satisfying conclusion. Maddie’s next adventures will undoubtedly be even more riveting and should prove to be just as entertaining, humorous, and full of money-saving hints.
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