by Linda Joffe Hull
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Maddie Michaels, reality TV’s Mrs. Frugalicious (Eternally 21, 2013, etc.), takes her show south of the border to teach America how to plan a destination wedding, complete with corpse.
Afraid to admit to her adorable adolescent twins, FJ and Trent, or her bratty stepdaughter, Eloise, that she and their father, Frank, are on the rocks, Maddie hauls the whole clan down to the Riviera Maya, where her producer, Anastasia Chastain, plans to tie the knot with South Metro Police Detective Philip Stone at the plush Hacienda de la Fortuna—all for a fraction of what a conventional wedding would cost in the States. The trick, as Hull tediously documents in innumerable footnotes and bullet points, is that not as many guests will come to a destination wedding that requires them to spend a bundle on airfare. Plus, you can often get the resort to throw in perks that can expand your reception feast or double as bridesmaids’ gifts. The Hacienda, for instance, offers Maddie’s family a trip to the local eco-water park for attending a sales information session led by handsome Alejandro Espinoza. Alejandro is muy persuasive, and Maddie is tempted not only by the timeshares he pushes, but by the notes tucked under her pillow begging her to meet him by the pool. Since she’s still legally wed, she refuses, only to hear Anastasia’s bridesmaids shriek in chorus as Alejandro’s body in discovered in said pool. The police call the drowning an accident, but Anastasia convinces Maddie that a murder investigation would make much better TV. So Mrs. Frugalicious begins a carefully scripted inquiry into how Alejandro, a skilled swimmer who limited himself to one drink a day, could have gotten drunk enough to drown in a hotel pool. Even with cue cards, Mrs. Frugalicious manages to lead her family into mortal danger as she unwittingly unmasks a killer.
Hull’s third Frugalicious entry does for shopping what Joanne Fluke does for pastry, making sure the busy reader doesn’t have to choose between a mystery, a wedding planning manual, and a guide to timeshare investments by putting everything into one volume.