Monday, March 5, 2012

Dead Air Can Kill You by Phil Edwards

9. Dead Air Can Kill You - third in the Jake Russo series
by Phil Edwards
mystery, 2011
second book for the Foodies Read 2 Challenge 2012
Kindle book, 7
finished, 2/22/12

As we saw in the last book, Death by Gumbo, the reporter Jake Russo's photographer Gary Novak is becoming more and more famous. In Dead Air Can Kill You he has been invited to appear on a public radio program in Wisconsin. He is going to talk about his new book, Delicious:Hidden Secrets of the World's Best Taster. This is a down home kind of show called Herenomore. Jake and his girlfriend Melissa have decided to tag along with Gary to enjoy a weekend at a ski resort. As soon as they arrive, it is clear that Gary is the celebrity. Jake tells someone at the theatre that he works with one of the guests, and when asked who, he replies:
"Gary Novak. He's a food writer and my photographer. His book is coming out this month."
"I've heard of him! He writes that food blog about eating things. … You work for Mr. Novak?"
"Well, no. I work with him. I'm a reporter and he does my photography. We're here on vacation."
The clerk shook his head.
"I can't believe I'm talking to somebody who works for the world's best taster."
Jake didn't bother correcting him again.
Soon, Gary tells Jake that he cancelled the reservations at the hotel because Braxton Elliot, the host of the radio show, has invited them all to stay with him. Jake calls and books another room quickly, and decides that he and Melissa will just eat dinner at Elliot's place along with the cast and crew of Herenomore. After dinner with the unpleasant, self-absorbed, tyrannical man, they find they cannot leave. There is a huge blizzard outside, the biggest one in Wisconsin for a while, and the guests are snowed in. The next morning, Gary and Meryl his wife, whom we meet in this book, see a lump under the snow. The two couples investigate and find the body of Braxton Elliot. The police are called but they cannot get there in the storm. So we, the readers, are in for a delightful old-fashioned murder mystery. The house is full of people with good reason to kill Braxton, and there is fear and uncertainty because no one knows the culprit. Another murder naturally occurs. There is some suspense, but being in the company of Jake, Melissa, Gary, and now Meryl is the great pleasure of this book, and each of the others in the series. The author also gives us such a strong sense of place. In the first book it was Florida, the second New Orleans, and now Wisconsin. The locales are important to the action in these stories.

This is my second book for the Foodies Read 2 Challenge.

It may seem an unusual choice because there aren't any recipes. There are no visits to restaurants. There are no meals served (except for that dinner at the beginning). But there is a focus on food, because there is none. After the body is found, and the four of them tell the other guests what has happened, they 'moved quickly to the kitchen.'
Gary shouted when he opened the refrigerator.
"Someone has murdered the food in this place."
They all peered in. A jar of mustard loitered on the top shelf. The crisper held a few leaves of lettuce. That was it.
The freezer is equally empty with only 'a single package of a diet meal.' The cabinets are also bare.

And so the people in this book have a weekend with no food. They are hungry. And poor Gary, the foodie has the worst time. He is certain he will die and begins talking about giving away his possessions. Remembering the Donner party, he declares that 'you may eat my body if I perish first.' We all know people who don't care much about food. They eat merely to live, while those of us who deem ourselves 'foodies' like Gary, are just the opposite. It was interesting to read how most of the people barely mentioned the lack of food. They made do smoking cigars and drinking wine. At one point a melon is found. It is a prop for the man who makes radio sounds. Jake tries it out and asks Gary if he wants to. Gary says,
"No. I want to eat it! Don't you realize there is no food in this house?"
While Jake and the man talk more, Gary eats the honeydew melon.
"I can only hope this will tide me over for a few more hours. I can already feel my mental faculties fading."
"Mr. Kerr, is there a chance that you use barbecue ribs to make sound effects? Or maybe a little pasta? Particularly gnocchi?"
Later Gary asks Jake,
"Are you as hungry as I am?"
"Gary, it's not the time to think about food."
… "Do you think we should see if there's a secret kitchen with food?"
As we've seen in the other books, Gary is also an eccentric, with a unique way of thinking and speaking. Jake can't figure out where he came from originally, and thinks that he sounds 'like he was speaking through an overworked translator.' He reminds me a bit of Ziva in NCIS. There is even a collection of Zivaisms on the internet. Perhaps someone will collect some Garyisms as the series continues.
"I am very glad to be here on your program in the greatest state in Wisconsin."
[another person says]"I believe it is the only state in Wisconsin."
"Then certainly it is the best."
"Do not make me play hard to get" when he means "Do not make me play hardball."

When someone notices his accent, and asks where he is from, Gary answers, 'I came here from Sarasota, Florida!'
"So your accent is how people in Sarasota talk?"
"If you say so, I will agree! I've lived there for almost twelve years."
His expressions are sprinkled throughout the book, giving the reader a good sense of this delightful man.

If you are looking for a light-hearted, well-written book, with a little mystery involved, this book, and the two preceding it, are just the ticket. I just love this Jake Russo series. As soon as I finished this, I bought the next one. They are witty, and the characters make for pleasant reading company.

I came upon this at Amazon:

An Interview with Phil Edwards About the Book

In this book, Jake watches his photographer Gary appear on an old time radio show. The rest of the book is set in the world of radio (and in a Wisconsin blizzard). What made you choose that setting?

Well, the Wisconsin part is easy. I went to high school and college in Wisconsin, so I'm very familiar with the cold. And as I wrote this book in Chicago, I tried to cultivate my dread of the imminent winter.

The radio setting is easy too. I think anyone who listens to public radio could recognize the inspiration for some of the characters. Of course, I don't believe any of them actually act like the irascible Braxton Elliott or the pretentious Isaac Holtz (legally, I have to say that).

The most fun, however, was marooning all of these characters in a mansion. That gave me a chance to force everyone to interact a lot--whether they wanted to or not.

What happens to the characters we've met in the first two books?

Jake has found some stability in his professional and personal life. But this vacation is going to test everything he's built so far, in his career and with his girlfriend Mel. Meanwhile, Gary continues to flourish with a popular food blog and a photography career. This book gives readers the opportunity to finally meet his wife, Meryl, and see what she adds to the mystery.

How does this book differ from the first two in the series?

Readers can read the mysteries in any order. In fact, Dead Air Can Kill You might serve as a great introduction to Jake and his friends.

That said, this book differs from the first two. Jake has grown as a person, and the mystery has grown too. Retirement Can Be Murder uncovered a conspiracy and Death By Gumbo entered a unique world filled with personal rivalries. This book does the same, but it raises the intensity through more twists and raises the humor through more...well, you'll see.

Once readers finish this book, Jake's adventures continue on Broadway in The Show Must Go Wrong.


  1. Sounds delightful! And I suspect that, were I reading this, the lack of food for the marooned people in the hotel would make me get up and get myself something to eat every few pages!

  2. I'm with Librarian in a book like this putting me in the mood to eat, even as the characters have no food. LOL This sounds like a fun book!

  3. Nan -- Did you notice me sneaking out the minute I saw the title? I ran over to Amazon and bought this book and the one before that -- thanks!! (I loved the first one -- on your recommendation.) Thanks!!!

    1. So funny! I did think of you when I published this today. These books are pure delight!

  4. This looks like a fun book to read. I laugh when I think about foodies being caught in a place with no food at all. I can't wait to see how they handle the dilemma.

    1. Each of the books I've read in this series has delighted me, Margot. I'm quite sure you would enjoy them.

  5. Hi Nan,
    I was compelled to download Death by Gumbo after reading your post...and it was free for Kindle. Thanks!

    1. Each of them is very inexpensive on the Kindle, and such joys to read. I think you'll like these characters. You'll like the 'foodie' side of the books, too! Thanks for coming by.


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