Midwest Book Review

It’s satisfying to see a book subtitle that goes beyond defining the genre of a story to impart an exciting sense of its atmosphere. Flies in the Punch Bowl: Art Theft, Cocktails, and High Society sets the stage for a lively whodunit romp through the art world, attracting readers interested in a blend of social commentary and intrigue.

Take a rampage of thievery in Seattle’s art world, inject an amateur artist/sleuth recovering from the impact of forgery on her own efforts, and add Annabel’s motivation for entering an investigative process foreign to her (she wants to restore her reputation in art circles) for a story which neatly balances intrigue with a quest for personal and professional redemption.

Erika Simms writes with a style talented in spicy description: “From the shelf, the bartender selected a bottle of Pernod absinthe and mixed the emerald antidote. “This should soften the blow,” he said. The pained man sipped from the martini. His posture relaxed. “Ordinarily I’d have my attorney sue the other buyer, but he’s currently hiding out on a nude beach in Aruba bronzing his nether regions.”

Hot topics and local gossip, intrigue and confrontation, and a well-paced action-packed story that is injected with wry humor at many turns will attract readers interested in stories that are a cut above the usual one-dimensional whodunit. Simms excels in a sense of irony and fun even when situations are tense: “Exasperated, Lyla hurried up behind me toward the abandoned hotel, mouthing the words reckless and beheading. The second of which made no sense, but I didn’t stop to clarify.

When she caught up, she yanked my stick away and tossed it to the ground, freeing me of the obvious encumbrance. It was the sort of foolish action typically saved for the movies, where the short-sighted protagonist tosses their only semblance of a weapon as the antagonist nears; a blunder on par with that same protagonist dashing upstairs to hide in the shower from an intruder who’s just smashed in through the kitchen window.”

Annabel is not above fudging ethics and truth during her pursuit, and so there are wonderfully succinct reflections embedded into action scenes that leave readers simultaneously thinking, laughing, and entertained: “Finally aware of my presence, the hobo yanked the cash from my fingers and ambled away, the coat dragging like a ragamuffin doll along the dirty cobblestones behind him. I turned my eyes back to the manila folder resting in the passenger seat of the convertible. I thought, two types of people exist in this world—those who get away with things, and those who do not. With that truism in mind, I lifted the folder from the convertible. It put up little fight as I thumbed through its contents.”

Pair an original voice, realistic characters and motives, and solid descriptions of artistic circles and Seattle society for a superior, engrossing, fun story that is highly recommended not just for mystery fans, but for anyone looking for a rollicking good read.

Midwest Book Review

Samuel Clare Knights, PEN Award-Winning Author

Simms tends to details with hypnotizing mystique that butters the reader up by way of a page-turning binge. Here we drink in a mystery poured over thirty-eight chapters that poke the bear with an intoxicating mix of escapade, sass, and olives.”

– Samuel Clare Knights, PEN Award-winning author of The Manual Alphabet

InD'Tale Magazine

Flies in the Punch Bowl is a brisk, energetic mystery, which is reminiscent of a caper style adventure. Annabel and her cohorts are sharp-witted, utilizing their sly, occasionally droll banter to keep the reader entertained while the group brainstorms their next big move. The story flows smoothly, moving at a quick enough pace to keep readers engaged from beginning to end. Hopefully, these fun characters, all of whom have great potential, will return for more original, wildly entertaining, madcap adventures in the future. Recommended to all mystery lovers.

– InD’Tale Magazine

Aspen Tree Reviews

Flies in the Punch Bowl by new author Erika Simms is a delight! Taking place in Seattle, valuable art has been stolen by unknown thieves in a string of robberies from the uber rich. Annabel Riley, a fearless and savvy art lover, convinces two friends, Evan and Lyla to help her solve the mystery. Cleverly written, colorful characters and laugh out loud wittiness abound in this amusing and wonderful cozy mystery tale.

Simms’ writing clearly shows her wit and talent. Great flow, amusing characters and vivid details capture the reader. Did I mention there’s a historic prohibition speakeasy linked to the thefts as well? Fans of James J. Cudney and Janet Evanovich will definitely enjoy. Thanks to Erika Simms for sending me an Advanced Reader Copy. You are a true storyteller.

– Aspen Tree Reviews

Dr. Nadine Gibbons, PhD

I loved this book, it is smart and sassy, lively and funny. Twenty somethings living in Seattle, enjoying the nightlife with lots of specialty beers and cocktails, and then gatecrashing art exhibitions. We have a former art fraud investigator now working in a museum, a employee of an advertising agency and a reporter who sniff out a mystery in the exclusive art world and set off to solve it. The author clearly has a finger or maybe a whole hand on the pulse of the modern art world and is able to write satirically on this subject in several chapters. For example:

“Before we go, I must visit the contemporary rendition of Edvard Munch’s The Scream hanging across the gallery,” said Evan, motioning toward the far wall. “The piece appears to be reproduced with construction paper and finger paints.” “We don’t have time for this,” I said, following him to the painting, where carmine reds and burning yellows were draped across a sinuous sky while shadowy swirls of ochre green and navy blue accented a road and a river in the distance. A blurry figure stood alone in the foreground, gripping its hollow cheeks, its mouth open wide in a scream. Trumpeted from the mouth in a cartoon bubble were the words Laundry Room Renegade, because even in satire, the image was cliched.

So there you have it, art theft, cocktails, and witty conversation, a twenty-something book thoroughly enjoyed by this 60 year old reviewer who has 20 something children and friends.

– Dr. Nadine Gibbons PhD

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