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   Beat Up a Cookie

Beat Up a Cookie
by Denise Dietz

Category: Fiction / Mystery
256 pages; ISBN: 0373263406

Rating: 9/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Kathryn Lively


Do you remember where you were the night the last original episode of M*A*S*H aired? Ellie Bernstein does. She was trying to settle her overweight tuckus on a barstool at Charley Aaronson's Dew Drop Inn, which was host to a raucous M*A*S*H bash, complete with drunken look-alike Klingers and Hawkeyes bidding their favorite television show farewell with a drink (or five, or ten). Ellie, distraught over her husband's blatant infidelity, uses the show as her balm, trying to avoid yet another inevitable cheesecake binge. At the time she believes herself the most unfortunate person in the room, but that title eventually goes to a woman dressed as "Hot Lips" Houlihan, found dead in the bar's parking lot.

Cut to the present, and Ellie, fresh from her amateur sleuthing in Denise Deitz's Throw Darts at a Cheesecake, is eleven years older, fifty-five pounds lighter, and less one husband. In Beat Up A Cookie, the Weight Winners counselor supports other women in the quest to lose weight while her current paramour, detective Peter Miller, dodges Ellie's interest in his work (which has replaced her appetite for sweets) and refuses to divulge information on the curious suicide of a medical supplies salesman who bore more than a passing resemblence to a certain M*A*S*H surgeon. The deceased's name? Frank Burns.

Much to Peter's annoyance, Ellie's curiosity is fueled when a second "Hot Lips" clone is found dead, and soon she is mingling with a clique of die-hard M*A*S*Hers (including philandering architect Ken Trask, whose home is decorated in patriotic colors, and Fred Remming, a whiny frustrated soul who makes Radar O'Reilly look like Mel Gibson) who ritualize their viewing habits. With her imaginary Sherlock cap, Ellie, quietly speculates as to which one is a serial killer, with crimes possibly stretching back to that fateful night when a young woman in a bar parking lot also bade "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen." For Ellie, though, the task is not easy: the only common thread among the victims is their resemblences to show characters, and everyone she suspects seems to have motive and opportunity; that is, considering Ellie's wild imagination and her overactive paranoia when her son mentions casually that Ellie could pass for "Hot Lips" herself! For Ellie, it's important to find the killer before she, like M*A*S*H, is cancelled.

A witty, quick read, Beat Up A Cookie is packed with the most essential elements of a mystery: a down-to-earth sleuth (Ellie Bernstein is a breath of fresh air in a world of sculpted silicone dolls, proving that over 40 doesn't mean over the hill), strong, witty dialogue, and more twists and turns than a San Francisco street. You don't have to a M*A*S*H fan to enjoy Beat Up A Cookie, not as avid as some of the people in this book, anyway.


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