Cover image for Birthday party : a Lilly Bennett mystery
Birthday party : a Lilly Bennett mystery
Kellogg, Marne Davis.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Doubleday, 1999.
Physical Description:
261 pages ; 25 cm
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X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In Marne Davis Kellogg's fifth intricately plotted, wildly entertaining mystery, Marshal Lilly Bennett, hot on the trail of an unlikely serial murderer, finds herself drugged and lost in the Nevada desert. Out West, where open spaces are practically sacred, land developers are considered the closest thing to Satan, so it's really no surprise to Lilly Bennett when members of the Johnson clan--the evil spirits behind the Johnson Land Company--start getting bumped off. It all begins with a masked gunman's very surprising appearance at a charity dinner. With her trusty Glock pistol tucked in her evening bag, Lilly chases the murderer across food-laden tables, startling the guests even more and ruining her brand-new Yves Saint Laurent aubergine shantung suit in the process, only to have the killer escape in the Bennett family helicopter. Needless to say, the marshal is more than eager to get even. As any reader of Marne Davis Kellogg's wickedly biting, cleverly conceived, and always amusing mysteries will know, nothing that happens to the Bennett clan of Bennett's Fort, Wyoming, ever takes place on a small scale. InBirthday Party, Lilly and her oh-so-proper mother spend time hobnobbing with a bevy of Las Vegas showgirls; the marshal and her hunky new husband, Richard, find themselves wining and dining with mobsters; and Bennett's Fort entertains a superstar at a party. Events unfold at breakneck speed, and the entertainment never lets up, right through the startling and deliciously satisfying conclusion.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Fans of the Lilly Bennett series will undoubtedly be pleased by this latest tale featuring the well-dressed U.S. marshal. Those who have yet to meet her, however, may spend much of the book trying to figure out who's who and how they fit into the complex tale. For example, what exactly is a U.S. marshal? How did Bennett become one? And why does she dress in Chanel but say "yup" all the time? These questions aside, Birthday Party is a lot of fun. Bennett tells her tale in funny, self-deprecating Stephanie Plum^-like fashion, but she couldn't be more different from the Janet Evanovich character--for one thing, she's filthy rich. As Lilly hunts for a killer in Las Vegas, showgirls, Mob guys, and even Wayne Newton figure in the zany plot. --Jenny McLarin

Publisher's Weekly Review

Unlikely as it may seem, Kellogg's feisty series heroine, Lilly Bennett, is both a U.S. Marshal and a private eye. A tough, dyed-in-the-wool Westerner, Lilly also owns an international security firm that's based in her home town of Bennett's Fort, Wyo. In addition, she's an heiress who flies by corporate helicopter and jet, wears couture clothes and always makes sure she's got her trusty Glock in her designer purse. Lilly recently married opera magnate and rodeo star Richard Jerome, but that hasn't slowed her relentless pursuit of killers. It's bad enough when a land developer is slain before her eyes at an exclusive charity dinner, but when the murderer knocks out two muscle-bound former Marine pilots and steals Lilly's helicopter to make a getaway, our heroine has plenty of motive to get involved. While chasing down leads, Lily jets off to Las Vegas, where she gets involved with showgirls, the Mafia and a passel of evil land developers and crooked politicians. As the body count rises and comes to include a federal office-holder, even Lilly's old friend Janet Reno and the director of the FBI get on her case about solving the crimes quickly. Kellogg has produced another uproarious, fast-moving melodrama. Her characters have plenty of attitude, but not much depth. Still, there's fun for all in this comedy-mystery about the outrageous exploits of an audacious heroine and her rowdy, eccentric family of Western ranchers. Readers may not always agree with Lilly's firmly held opinions about everything under the sun, but they'll enjoy her company immensely. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Newly married Lilly Bennett, marshal of Bennett's Fort, WY, chases a murderer who has targeted a local land-developing company. More rambunctious fun; fifth in the series. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Tuesday Evening Roundup Country Club The video, saluting Adelaide L. Johnson as the Roundup Cancer Institute's Citizen of the Year, began with Adelaide's parents, Maude and Henry Johnson, who had moved to Wyoming from Ravensden, Arkansas, sometime in the late thirties, after the Great Depression. Henry had been a moderately successful shopkeeper, and he brought all his savings in cash, formed the Henry Johnson & Son Land Company, and began to buy open range, which he leased back to the cash-strapped ranchers. "Henry got the cash in the first place because he was the only white man in that part of Arkansas who would lend money to black people," my brother Elias told me behind his hand. "At about fifty percent a week interest." They also brought their two children: a son, Jefferson Davis "Jeff" Johnson, for whom they had large expectations, and a daughter, Adelaide, from whom, I suspect, they expected nothing. The video, of course, provided none of Elias's editorializing, showing instead old cracked photos of the sturdy, courageous young Johnson couple--Adelaide must have inherited her horse-teeth from her father, since her mother didn't appear to have any teeth at all--standing by their Model T pickup, hands on their young children's shoulders, Jeff standing straight, already a bully, Adelaide squinting, her face crinkled up, her choppers lying like sun-bleached paddles across sun-blistered lips, in front of a newly painted sign hammered into the open space, announcing that the big nothing behind them was owned by the Henry Johnson & Son Land Company. A loud whistle split the air. "Hot dog," Clay Parker bellowed down the head table at Adelaide over the strains of "Happy Days Are Here Again." "Look at those damn legs. Those are Saturday-nighters if I ever seen a pair." Uncomfortable laughter and a few appreciative whistles ruffled through the crowd. I think Clay, an aged cowboy movie star and the television spokesman for Johnson Land, might have drunk his limit. Directly across from us, the floor-to-ceiling picture windows reflected back dozens of blurred images of Adelaide and her brother growing up. It was a typical rags-to-riches story, a real "Beverly Hillbillies"/"Ma and Pa Kettle" deal. Old Maude still scrubbed her wash on the back stoop, while Henry wore sleeve garters and scooted a toothpick around his mouth faster than a tennis match, looking to me as though he were rummaging around for missing crown roasts and sandwiches. They'd sent their son, Jeff, to Dartmouth, and, in 1940, he married a seventeen-year-old New Hampshire girl, Theresa Collacello, whom we saw waving wanly from the steps of the Wyoming Zephyr as she took the train out West to live with her new in-laws. "Barmaid." Elias sneezed. "Shotgun." "Will you stop," I whispered back as quietly as I could. "You're making me laugh. Show some respect." "Moi?" "What is wrong with you tonight?" My husband, Richard--who was chairman of the board of trustees of the Cancer Institute, and with whom we were sitting, on show, at the head table, unobtrusively reached his hand around behind me and smacked my brother on the back of his head. Chastened, Elias slid low in his seat, crossed his arms over his chest, and sucked in a long, disgusted breath. "It's not like any of this has anything to do with reality." I took a large bite of cherry pie to keep from laughing. I could tell Richard was starting to get mad. By the mid-fifties, the company also had an office in England, where the Johnsons made a fortune building ramshackle low-cost housing. A black-and-white photo showed them and their English office staff smiling at the camera in front of Buckingham Palace, holding a sign that said HENRY JOHNSON & SON LAND COMPANY. Ha. Ha. Ha. At some point, the video was vague, everyone but those left at home in Wyoming: Adelaide, and Jeff's three small children--Tom, Dolly, and Frank--died in a plane crash. Overnight, Adelaide not only assumed the role of the orphans' mother and father, but also, according to the narrator, "bravely" stepped into the position as chairman and CEO of the newly named A.L. Johnson Land Company. Henry & Son had vanished from the face of the earth. "Oh, brother," my brother muttered. Today Adelaide was in her eighties and had been bleaching her hair for so long that it now looked like a flock of peach-tinted chicken feathers. But her eyes--big, hyperthyroid bug-eyes--were still sharp, as cold and flat as a grouper's. I glanced down the table just as she tugged up the front of her dress, possibly to keep out the prying, rheumy eyes of Monsignor Abbott, who sat next to her. But he had Tom Johnson's wife, the wondrous former showgirl Lucky, on his other side, and even though he was a priest, he was still a man, and knowing men as I do, I think if he were going to peek down someone's dress, he would pick Lucky's, not Adelaide's. Video reflections in the windows now showed our once-beautiful state choking to death on houses as far as the eye could see--A.L. Johnson Land Company houses that were packed tight onto curvy streets that all had the same name and, from a distance, looked like rows of cheap embroidery on some drugged-up hippie's psychedelic vest. Not a tree anywhere in sight. And the houses were inhabited with the Chamber of Commerce types who were at tonight's dinner and had lived in Wyoming for only three or four years at the most. Slicked-up, jacked-up, done-up pseudo cowboys and cowgirls who bought their boots in Aspen or Jackson Hole. Flatlanders who wore Bermuda shorts and Reeboks to do their chores instead of Levi's and roughouts. Who spent their Saturdays watching their children play soccer or lacrosse instead of teaching them to rope and ride. Who had e-mail and faxes in their cars and drank their coffee out of quart-sized plastic Starbucks jugs and didn't teach their children table manners because they had none themselves. No one smoked. They all drank white wine spritzers or club soda with just a squeeze of lime. Spritzers. In Wyoming, for God's sake. What a bunch of geeks. Give me a crowd of killers, corpses, felons, or socialites over this bunch of cheerleaders any day. My jaw was becoming as tight as Adelaide's dress, and probably just as unflattering. I considered going to the ladies' locker room and having a cigarette, except I didn't smoke anymore. So I drifted off and stared across the tops of the heads of the rapt audience, into the darkness, to where I thought I could just make out the top of our helicopter's rotors beyond the putting green. I imagined we were sitting in the big Sikorsky on our way home to the ranch, holding hands and kissing. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a figure pop up more than halfway down the center aisle of the darkened banquet room. Clothed completely in black: commando-style trousers caught at the ankles by soft-soled lace-up boots, a turtleneck beneath a black Kevlar vest, a ski mask covering his head, he had smeared black makeup around his eyes and the flash of the whites of those eyes was sinister and chillingly determined. I was caught totally off-guard. Excerpted from Birthday Party: A Lilly Bennett Mystery by Marne Davis Kellogg All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.