Thursday, May 5, 2011
Review: Tales of the Mystery Shopper
Available through Amazon,
Borders Online and Barnes and Noble
If you like a quirky set piece which owes a nod to the tales of Sherlock Holmes, but has a flavor all it's own, and is entertaining and well written to boot, then this book is for you.
What started out as a college fiction writing assignment took on a life of it's own and went on to be Tales of the Mystery Shopper: Taken From the Mis-adventurous Casebooks of his Stupefied Apprentice.
The stories contained in this erstwhile volume chronicle the adventures and mishaps of one Joe Lopp, mystery shopper, recounted for us by his assistant and friend, Stan Greene. When I say mystery shopper, I mean just that. You know what I'm referring to, the mystery shopper who graces an establishment, usually a retail outlet or restaurant, who puts the staff through their paces to gauge how well they treat customers. Outrageous requests, being difficult on purpose, imagined slights, etc., are all but a few weapons in the arsenal of a mystery shopper.
Joe Lopp is an expert mystery shopper, taking on disguises to fit each assignment, making himself completely undetectable to both his employers (who sometimes show up to see what's going on and end up interfering) to the hapless person who ends up waiting on Joe.
Joe is accompanied on these excursions by his friend and ally, Stan Greene, Joe's Watson to his Holmes.
The stories are fast paced and entertaining.
The first story has Joe going under cover to a Tony Roma's rib restaurant where he is laid low by running into an old paramour. He veers off the rails and ends up pursuing her rather than the food and things don't progress well from there.
The second story places Joe and Stan at a college football game to sample the concessions, as the school is trying to decide which company to go with in handling refreshments at their football games. There is more than foot long hot dogs and nachos afoot as Joe and Stan discover a grisly murder and must battle not only an elusive killer, but the dense fog that has enshrouded the stadium and it's environs.
There are five tales in all, my favorite being The Arch-Enemy where Joe locks horns with a competitor, ending in a fight to the finish, all-you-can-grab food marathon in a grocery store.
I enjoyed the book and clearly Michael Forrest can spin an entertaining, compelling tale, making his characters come to life. My only complaint is two of the stories sort of went off road as far as recounting Joe's mystery shopper escapades, but I kept reading anyway. For me, that's the hallmark of a good author; if they can stray down a path you the reader thinks is a boring, what-has-this-to-do-with-anything path, but still compels you to read it, because the writing is just that good.
Yes...I know this wasn't a horror/science fiction/fantasy/mystery (per se). But it is a first time out of the gate author. So I reviewed him.
I failed to find a web site for Michael Forrest. I did however, find Joe Lopp's Myspace.
If I find more information on our author, I'll post it.
The Mystery Shopper