Deep Dish

Little Bitty Lies

The Fixer Upper
by Mary Kay Andrews
(Harper, $25.99, G) ISBN 978-0060837389
Dempsey Killebrew's life is a shambles. A lobbyist implicated in the bribery of a U.S. Congressmen, she is unceremoniously fired, ignored by her boss (the true culprit), and given one way out by her recriminating father: go to the family home in Guthrie, Georgia, and restore it to some of its former glory.

Though not at all what Dempsey had in mind, it's her only opportunity to get out of D.C. and away from the press, not to mention the only other option she has besides going to California to stay with her mother. Birdsong seems the lesser of the evils until Dempsey arrives in Guthrie. Birdsong is as much a shambles as her life, and Dempsey doesn't know if she has it left in her to do the work - not to mention she's working on a fairly tight budget and she's never done this kind of manual labor before.

Birdsong is not only home to more than its fair share of spiders and mildew; an ancient cousin-several-times-removed has planted herself in the house and refuses to leave, despite remonstrances from the estate lawyer. And speaking of the lawyer- Dempsey's not looking for romance, but Tee gently convinces her to come out of her shell - and the Pepto Bismol pink house in which she's ensconced herself in an attempt to avoid confrontations with the press and the FBI.

The FBI, as it turns out, is much more difficult to intimidate than the press. Two special agents show up with a proposition that is more of an ultimatum: Dempsey serves as bait to get her former boss to dish information on his guilt. It seems the only way to clear her own name (at least as far as the legal system is concerned - her career is shot one way or another), so Dempsey eventually agrees.

Though the book doesn't seem to move very quickly, the important plotlines like Dempsey re-discovery of herself and the criminal case against her aren't given much airtime. Readers will probably initially find Dempsey's rehab entertaining, but after awhile all of those details get a little old; many seem to be just tossed in or used as filler.

Despite a handful of memorable characters, several important characters - such as Tee and his father and perhaps even Dempsey herself - never fill out. Ella, the crazy squatting cousin, on the other hand, provides constant amusement. Even the dead cousin who willed the house to Dempsey's father shines through the things he left behind.

Perhaps, if one did not have things like Savannah Blues or Deep Dish to compare against, The Fixer Upper would have been a perfectly serviceable summer read. It certainly doesn't take much concentration and is meant to be fun. However, it lacks the utter charm and wit of Andrews' previous novels.  This is not to say don't read The Fixer Upper.  If nothing else, it's a reasonably pleasant way to pass some time without taxing your brain; just don't be disappointed if it doesn't live up to expectation

--Sarrah Knight

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