Book Review: Fatal Fire by Marla Bradeen

The author described her book as a cozy, chick lit mystery, and it does indeed fulfill all of those descriptors.

Fatal FireAmy Wagner, a busy administrative assistant working in Houston, returns home to Seattle for her younger sister Gina’s funeral. Gina died in a fire in her apartment, and from the beginning, Amy believes the fire was not an accident. For one thing, the fire was apparently caused by Gina’s soap making, and Amy knows that Gina never cooked or baked anything that didn’t come from a box, let alone do something crafty like making soap. When Amy learns the laboratory where Gina worked burned down the week before her death, her suspicions deepen. Amy can’t convince her parents Gina may have been murdered, because although they divorced many years earlier, they are too busy sniping at each other and at Amy to pay attention.

Gina was supposed to be a bridesmaid at her friend Sabrina ‘s wedding, and Amy makes an effort to get to know Sabrina and the other bridesmaids as a way to learn more about Gina and what she’d been doing prior to the wedding. Instead, she gets roped into replacing Gina in the wedding party. Amy also meets Dr. Trent Steinbeck, the head of Gina’s lab. Although initially put off by Trent’s social quirks, Amy discovers he also wants answers and comes to find him endearing during their search for the truth.

The author does a commendable job detailing Trent’s research, and I was impressed at her knowledge of the various factors figuring into bringing a drug to market and the economic forces working against it. There are good red herrings along the way, and before the mystery can be solved, Trent may need to put his own life in danger.

I thoroughly enjoyed the sarcasm and snark of the parents’ interactions and the travails of the bridesmaids as they dealt with a bridezilla. Ms. Bradeen writes with a good sense of humor. There is not a lot to complain about with this mystery, other than three characters who were a little over the top: Amy’s mother, Wendy, was a bit cartoonish in her desire to make Trent her daughter’s boyfriend and plying him with cookies – as if that would seal the relationship; Sabrina, as an extreme bridezilla, made the reader want to slap her; and I wondered whether, after so many years, Amy’s father would continue to verbally abuse her as a second class citizen in comparison to Gina and her scientific career.

The author leads the reader on a merry chase from one suspect to the other, and all in all, this is a satisfying mystery in the classic cozy mode.

4 out of five stars.

About the author (from her website):

Marla BradeenMarla Bradeen was born in 1977 and lives in Las Vegas, Nevada (USA). She previously worked as a software consultant and analyst. In 2012, she gave up a traditional job for no other reason than to have more time to pursue personal interests, such as sleeping in late and taking naps. Although she misses seeing regular deposits into her bank account, she hasn’t once regretted that decision.

She didn’t initially intend to begin writing novels, but after several weeks of doing nothing, she realized sleeping all day isn’t as easy or enjoyable as her cats led her to believe. Over the ensuing months, she wrote Lethal Injection, which she self-published in 2013.

Marla finished her first (and, before 2013, only) novel in 2004 and spent the next two years unsuccessfully querying literary agents. That experience combined with the advancement of self-publishing over the past few years drove her decision to pursue the self-publishing path.

She has published several other chick lit mysteries: The Amicable Divorce, Lethal Injection, Lost Witness, Murder in White Sands

You can find Marla at:

Twitter (@marlabradeen)

and Fatal Fire on Amazon:



13 thoughts on “Book Review: Fatal Fire by Marla Bradeen”

    1. Thank you! This idea (like so many) happened by accident. I was researching something else (for another novel that never happened) and ended up on an article that got me thinking of this story instead.

  1. A great review ~ the snarky parent interactions sounds like fun dialogue, although the “a cozy, chick lit mystery” is generally not my cup of tea since I am man (outdoors, mud, sweat and smells) 🙂 But I could give it a try.

    1. My husband doesn’t like chick lit either. I strayed into a love interest in my latest book (about to go off to the editor) and when he read it, it was a yuck for him.

    2. Thank you! This book is actually dedicated to my boyfriend, who reads all my books. He enjoys them (at least he tells me he does), but if left on his own I don’t think he would pick anything labeled “chick lit” either.

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