Cover Image: A Messy Affair

A Messy Affair

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Member Reviews

"A Messy Affair" began as a slowly paced patchy story. The author seemed intent on giving an update on all the characters in every chapter, that it was very disconnecting.

Halfway through the book, I was considering DNFing the book due to the weird plot. It wasn't engaging enough and I was getting irritated with P C Cartwright. He was being mentioned by Lena so many times and he didn't even seem to deserve that attention. Lena seemed to be an intelligent woman but she was basically out of danger and everything fell in place till the umpteenth moment.

My curiosity as to who the culprit was, made me finish the book. I knew that the author would not mention a character without any reason, so my initial guess turned out to be right. The author has put in ample efforts but the book as a whole was very disengaging.
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A Messy Affair is a modern take on the cosy mystery, cleaning up the dirty side of reality TV.

Elizabeth Mundy‘s writing is fun and Lena has some humorous observations and insights. There were plenty of red herrings and suspects, recognisable from various ‘structured reality’ shows and their tangential hangers-on. I particularly liked Mrs Kingston, and Jasper the rabbit (natch!) Lena herself is admirably dogged, thorough and loyal and she is a likeable lead.

To begin with, I struggled with Lena’s relationship with PC Cartwright, but this may well be because I’ve not read the earlier books in the series. She seemed awfully keen on him and thought he was amazing but this didn’t really seem borne out by his actions until over half way through the book (I’m not even sure we know his first name!)

I did enjoy reading about Lena’s escapades and scrapes and I did not guess where the story was going. A Messy Affair shines a light on the highs and lows and heart-break of both reality TV and reality itself. If you enjoy an amusing, modern cosy mystery, this may well be the series for you.
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Lena Szarka is a full - time cleaner in London, very prone to land herself in situations that end with crime. This time it's about her cousin Sarika's boyfriend, Terry Tibs, who is also a reality TV star. He's found dead in a hotel room, in very suspicious circumstances, and Lena has to put all of her detective skills to good use in order to find out what has happened to Terry.

The main character Lena was really well written. I liked the way she was, ambitious, observant, calm and level - headed. She took pride in her work and always took great care to be there for her clients, to accommodate all their quirks and wishes, often having to use her crime - solving talents at the same time. I admired her talents for getting the information that she needed, and not only because she was a cleaner, and yes, people tend not to notice cleaners, but she was also clever and was able to draw conclusions.

This is the third book in the series and even though I haven't read the two previous ones, and even though you could immediately tell that the characters' have their background, their past and that they had some adventures together, it was easy to get into the heart of the story. I think it was because of the lovely, wry and down - to - earth writing style that is also easy to get along with. Elizabeth Mundy's writing is incredibly vivid, chatty and the descriptions are rich and eloquent without over - powering you with its eloquence.

It was a lovely, comfortable and cosy read but I needed more from it, more depth, complexity and challenge. The author has added some twists and turns but they were not of life - changing quality and altogether the book was for me more cosy than complex. Sure, it kept me guessing but not in that desperate way, I didn't have to know immediately who and why. It was probably because of the supporting characters that were not as deep as I'd like them, and the stories surrounding them felt a bit too easy. And I couldn't stand Lena's cousin, I'm sorry, but this character has mostly ruined the book for me - a whingy, egoistic and self - centred girl that thought the whole world should run around her. Altogether, "A Messy Affair" was an enjoyable, easy read that made me curious about the whole series. It was quirky, refreshing and had an memorable heroine.
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I really enjoyed the previous two books featuring Lena Szarka, In Strangers’ Houses and A Clean Canvas, however A Messy Affair can also be enjoyed as a standalone read.

Readers unfamiliar with the series should be warned the books contain scenes of heavy duty cleaning and unrestrained use of dusters, mops and other dirt fighting weapons. And beware the wrath of Lena if you pronounce her name to rhyme with ‘cleaner’ rather than as it should be. However, if you get on her right side, she may just reward you with her special formula for removing limescale from shower heads or her mother’s recipe for dumplings.

You may have gathered from this that Lena is quite a character. With an eye for detail, whether that’s dust on a skirting board or lipstick on a glass, Lena is never happier than when she’s cleaning and listening to the comforting purr of the vacuum cleaner. As she says, “Cleaning is the best time to solve crime. It frees up your mind to new possibilities.”

Once again, it’s Lena’s extended family that draws her into investigating a crime. At least it’s something to keep her from pining for love interest PC Cartwright or worrying about unfinished business with previous adversary, Yasemin Avci. Thankfully, Lena has a useful new ally in the shape of ex-journalist Mrs Kingston with her network of contacts. The book’s satisfyingly multi-layered plot, peopled with plenty of suspects, is set against the backdrop of contemporary, multicultural London.

Spanning the shiny world of reality TV and the decidedly grubby world of internet dating, A Messy Affair is another polished, sparkling crime mystery from the pen of Elizabeth Mundy (Ed: That’s enough of the cleaning references now.)
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I’m almost embarrassed to admit this is my first adventure with Elizabeth Mundy and Lena however, I am a new fan and will be off to check out book one and two.  Despite being book 3 in a series though I can guarantee it works as a stand alone novel.

A Messy affair is a quirky, often hilarious and completely refreshing mystery novel and absolutely enjoyed every minute of reading it.

Lena is such a feisty and hilarious character that I just want to be her best friend/sidekick.  She is intelligent and witty and throughout the novel we get a perfect balance of her personal life and the investigation.

Using her connections as a cleaner, Lena is able to work her way into the investigation by offering tea and sympathy to suspects and those affected.  Such a  clever premise and it works so well!

It’s so difficult not to become involved in the story.  For me, a sign of a good mystery novel is when I become part of the book, like an extra character.  I found myself working through the clues and information, constantly guessing then re-evaluating my decisions.  Using reality TV as a base setting for the murder is such a modern and clever idea too.

A light and fun cosy mystery – thoroughly enjoyable.
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Favorite Quotes:

The devil’s own food, wasabi peas… Why turn an innocent pea into a torture device like that? The Japanese have no business making snacks.

I remember when the internet was invented… I thought that this internet thing would never take off.  So slow.  And so much information no one cared about. Full of chat rooms with lonely people scattered all over the world, spelling badly and swearing at each other.

Lena felt as though she should work in a bar, the amount of alcohol and sympathy she’d been dishing out recently. Men certainly seemed to have a detrimental effect on women’s livers.

Mrs Ives took a biscuit and then put it back down. ‘I’m watching my figure,’ she said. ‘I’m going to have to find myself a new man…. On second thoughts,’ she said, reaching for a biscuit, ‘I think I’d rather have chocolate than a man any day.’

In a funny way, things are better now… It’s like having stomach flu. It’s awful at the time, but then when you’ve recovered, you’ve lost half a stone and your jeans look great.


My Review:

I have thoroughly enjoyed Elizabeth Mundy’s wryly written cozy mysteries.  I now feel compelled to go to the beginning and read the first in the series, as the last two have been cleverly entertaining.  I definitely have a taste for Ms. Mundy’s sardonic sense of humor and cunningly paced writing style.  Her well-contrived tales are more complex than most cozy mysteries and kept me guessing.  I postulated and discarded several wild theories while I read.  I adored Lena, the hard-working, ambitious, and highly observant Hungarian; she grappled valiantly with the complexities of the English language and confusing cultural issues while applying her special skills of deep cleaning and crime-solving, which for Lena went hand-in-hand.  Lena did not believe in half-measures and took great care to accommodate her client’s quirks.  I fervently wish I knew her contact information so I could send for her and her secret recipe of hand-made cleaning products to tackle my personal nest of accumulated detritus and filth.  But please, don’t tell my mother that my sloth has put me in such dire need of such a service!
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(Review available online on 21st Jan 2020)

I was thrilled to see a third instalment of the Lena Szarka mysteries, as I reviewed A Clean Canvas, the second book, a little while ago.

As with that book, A Messy Affair is contemporary mystery with the twist that Lena can get to places other detectives can’t reach, as nobody ever looks twice at the cleaner. Lena uses her profession, and her no-nonsense Hungarian roots, to solve the murder of a reality TV star, who was seeing her young cousin – unfortunately Sarika has NOT inherited Lena’s savvy!

The mystery is really well written in this book, as there are lots of twists and turns, as Elizabeth Mundy expertly presents several promising suspects, all with valid reasons to do away with Terry Tibbs. The resolution is dramatic and pacy, and you’ll fly through the final few pages.

In this book, I particularly liked the development of Lena’s relationship with PC Cartwright, which had been introduced in the previous novels. Although this part of the plot might make you want to read the series in order, you’re not really missing out if you read A Messy Affair first.

Overall, this is an excellent addition to the Lena Szarka (Layna, not Leena!) series, and I’m excited to see where her nose for trouble, and her cleaning business take her next!
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Lena Dons Her Reluctant Sleuthing Cap.... 
Book three in the Lena Szarka mysteries. Lena, once again, dons her reluctant sleuthing cap when a body makes an appearance and it becomes clear that her cousin Sarika is in danger. The writing is full of warmth, empathy and wit with a fun and engrossing plot line and a clever, likeable protagonist in fearless Lena. Thoroughly enjoyable and a worthy addition to the series.
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The book was easy to read! Enjoyed the detective story with Lena and Sarika. An interesting take on London and the crimes! An different insight to Islington too!
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