Renovated to Death (A Domestic Partners in Crime Mystery)
1st in Series
Setting – Michigan
Kensington Cozies (May 31, 2022)
Paperback : 288 pages
ISBN-10 : 1496735587
ISBN-13 : 978-1496735584
Kindle ASIN : B09FFX6T7J
Real-life domestic partners and stars and producers of the new hit reality home renovation show Domestic Partners, bestselling mystery author Peter “PJ” Penwell and actor JP Broadway are enjoying work and life in their sleepy Detroit suburb of Pleasant Woods—until a suspicious death makes an unscripted appearance . . .
After a successful first season of Domestic Partners chronicling the renovation of their historic Craftsman Colonial, Peter and JP are taking on a renovation of a local Tudor Revival inherited by identical twin brothers Terry and Tom Cash. But linoleum floors and a pink-tiled bathroom aren’t the only unwelcome surprises awaiting inside the house . . .
Just as the show is set to start filming, Peter and JP discover Tom Cash dead at the foot of the house’s staircase. And when the police ruling changes from accidental death to homicide, the list of suspects grows fast. Could the killer be the crabby next-door neighbor, the Realtor ex-boyfriend, the bartender’s ex-boyfriend, the other, much younger, ex-boyfriend, or even renovation-reluctant brother, Terry? And what’s that awful smell coming from the basement? Now Peter’s mystery writer skills, and JP’s experience as the former star of a cop show, will be put to the test—as will their relationship while they uncover the secrets of the house and its owners. With a killer on the loose, this is one fixer-upper that may prove deadly . . .
Bestselling mystery author Peter “PJ” Penwell and actor JP Broadway are real-life partners who have come together to star in and produce Domestic Partners, a hot reality home renovation show. They are getting ready for their second season and have plans to renovate another house in Pleasant Woods, Michigan. Twin brothers Terry and Tom Cash inherited the family home and have let it fall to disrepair. PJ and JP have plans to breathe some life into the home so it can be sold for a pretty penny in this elite Detroit suburb.
Everything is in place to start filming in a few days when JP and PJ discover Tom Cash dead at the foot of the stairs of their project. The staircase is pretty rickety and that leads the police to rule the death accidental. Later when more information comes to light they declare the event a homicide. Tom ruffled plenty of feathers over the years so there are plenty of suspects including his twin brother Terry. The mystery writer skills in PJ start to kick in as do things actor JP learned playing a cop. They know the killer needs to be found quickly or their new reno project could hit the skids and more people could end up dead.
I was excited to review this book because I love that cozies are getting more diverse and this one is truly testing the waters with the cast almost entirely made up of gay men.
The author took a lot of time to introduce the characters which I really appreciate for the first book in a new series but I felt I really didn’t get to know enough. They just felt a little flat. It may be just me but I started out getting really confused between the two main characters PJ and JP. I finally got it in my head to translate the initials with the characters’ last names, Penwell – Author, Broadway – Actor. When I did that the story flowed much better. I did like the characters and that is what kept me reading and not throwing the book at the wall.
We did meet several other characters that were all connected to Tom and Terry. I deal with a set of twins in our family and understand it can be hard to tell them apart which is why I really focused on the differences between Tom and Terry. Who wore what hat? Who had a space between their teeth? Who was more outgoing and who was more passive? Who was enthusiastic about renovating their parent’s home and who wanted it left as is? I really tuned in to how each brother reacted to the people around them too. They may have been identical in looks but different in every other way. It made them very interesting to me and felt they were very well developed.
Mr. Polito penned a very good mystery but I think because I was ultra-focused on the twins I cataloged each clue dropped in a way that had me solving the mystery almost as soon as the death occurred. There were some great twists but they just firmed up my theories.
Something that really struck my heart was PJ and JP trying to adopt a dog. We were disappointed by the pet adoption process ourselves a few years ago and went through some of the same feelings the characters had. Things worked out for us in the long run. You will have to read the book to find out what happens with the Domestic Partners.
I really enjoyed all the descriptions of the homes in Pleasant Woods and that one was turned into a wonderful restaurant. I had hoped for more renovations in this book but the house the stars had previously renovated was mentioned a lot as to what they had done there. I am sure there will be more in the next book.
Renovated to Death lays a good foundation for this series. I am looking forward to more character development of Penwell and Broadway and them getting involved in a more complicated mystery. I am also looking forward to more about their television show including the filming and them actually doing some renovations.
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About the Author
Frank Anthony Polito is an award-winning author and playwright. His published novels include Band Fags (2008 “Best Fiction” – InsightOut Book Club) and Drama Queers (2009 Lambda Literary Award), and the novella “A Christmas to Remember” (the sequel to BAND FAGS!) as featured in the collection Remembering Christmas, and The Spirit of Detroit.
In April 2012, Frank published his first Young Adult novel, Lost in the 90s under his own imprint, Woodward Avenue Books.
Frank grew up in the Detroit suburb of Hazel Park. He received his BFA in Theatre from Wayne State University and his MFA in Dramatic Writing from Carnegie Mellon. He resides in Pleasant Ridge, MI with his partner, Craig Bentley, and their two dogs, Jack and Clyde. He is currently writing a new cozy mystery, Rehearsed to Death, to be published by Kensington Cozies in June 2023.
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”