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Murder of a Sleeping Beauty    by Denise Swanson order for
Murder of a Sleeping Beauty
by Denise Swanson
Order:  USA  Can
Signet, 2002 (2002)
* *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

Skye Denison is an overworked school psychologist in the little town of Scumble Riber, Illinois. On a routine visit to the high school, her session is interrupted by another student who runs in with the startling announcement, 'Sleeping Beauty is dead.' Despite Skye's skepticism, it is horribly true. Dead on the Sleeping Beauty set is the beauteous Lorelei Ingels, the school musical's leading lady. Despite her reluctance - she really does have more than enough on her plate with her regular duties, to which is now added grief counselling for both students and staff - Skye is pressured into helping the investigation by the head of the School Board.

Skye's inquiries reveal darker undercurrents beneath Lorelei's perfect fa7ade. Cheerleader, leading lady, beauty contestant, big girl on campus - yet Lorelei was seemingly weary of the punishing efforts to maintain her perfection. Her world was one of pitiless competition, not only in the beauty-competition circuit but also at school, where the in-crowd shows as little mercy to less favoured students as any predators in a tropical jungle. Lorelei's growing rebellion against the expectations demanded of her was alienating both family and friends. Skye finds little sympathy or support for Lorelei amongst those who were closest to her. She also finds that Scumble River's lazy surface hides some ugly truths. Among these is the reality of Lorelei's wealthy family. The mother seems obsessed with physical perfection for both her daughters. Frankly, the younger sister is a monster, who measures her worth by the number of competitions she wins, and who seems to feel nothing at the death of her sister.

Murder of a Sleeping Beauty is a pleasant read, with a lively, sincere heroine. Well-meaning, outspoken Skye Denison goes to considerable lengths for what she believes in, and one of her strongest beliefs is that those counting on her deserve her loyalty. She struggles with many challenges, not least of which are the demands of her job. The author paints a vivid picture of the pressures faced by students today, and the heavy load placed on school support personnel. There is humour to lighten the mix, coming from Skye's attitude to everything around her, and her own character, which leads her into sometimes outrageous situations (like breaking into the local mortuary with a high school student). She is a good foil to the girls who are would-be Barbie clones, several pounds heavier than their ideal weight, smart, sexy, determined. Her compassion is also in stark contrast to the harsh attitude of Chief of Police Walter Boyd (who also has a history with Skye) and Homer Knapik, the self-serving principal. They are, in fact, irritating because they seem to ignore issues to focus on minor points.

Overall Murder of a Sleeping Beauty entertains, while it also raises some serious points for consideration.

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