Renovated to Death by Frank Anthony Polito

Real-life domestic partners and stars and producers of the new hit reality home renovation show Domestic Partners, bestselling mystery author Peter “PJ” Penwell and actor JP Broadway are enjoying work and life in their sleepy Detroit suburb of Pleasant Woods—until a suspicious death makes an unscripted appearance . . .

After a successful first season of Domestic Partners chronicling the renovation of their historic Craftsman Colonial, Peter and JP are taking on a renovation of a local Tudor Revival inherited by identical twin brothers Terry and Tom Cash. But linoleum floors and a pink-tiled bathroom aren’t the only unwelcome surprises awaiting inside the house.

Just as the show is set to start filming, Peter and JP discover Tom Cash dead at the foot of the house’s staircase. And when the police ruling changes from accidental death to homicide, the list of suspects grows fast. Could the killer be the crabby next-door-neighbor, the Realtor ex-boyfriend, the bartender ex-boyfriend, the other, much younger, ex-boyfriend, or even renovation-reluctant brother, Terry? And what’s that awful smell coming from the basement? Now Peter’s mystery writer skills, and JP’s experience as the former star of a cop show, will be put to the test—as will their relationship while they uncover the secrets of the house and its owners. With a killer on the loose, this is one fixer upper that may prove deadly . . . (from

My Thoughts

Renovated to Death by Frank Anthony Polito is a cozy mystery featuring a gay couple who works together fixing up houses for a reality show called Domestic Partners. This was a really fun read and there were so many aspects to the story that felt unique and unlike anything I've read before in a cozy mystery. I'll be honest. I had a good idea who the murderer was, but there were so many interesting side characters with their own reasons for why they would be frustrated or angry with the deceased that it was difficult to confidently make a definitive guess.

Here are a few things I liked about this story.

The main couple (JP and PJ) are very different from each other but they work really well as a couple, which makes sense since they host a TV show together. I liked how they mostly were always on the same page and worked together to prep for their show, as well as figure out if Tom Cash's death was truly  murder or not.

I liked their group of friends. Cam especially made me laugh and I really hope he's featured in the next book as well. He cracked me up with some of his observations and I loved that he was so invested in his rescue dog Snoop.

And speaking of rescues, it warmed my heart that a side plot of the story was about how JP and PJ were planning to rescue a dog of their own. So sweet. I loved when they had their home visit with the woman from the pet rescue and wound up killing two birds with one stone, after she wound up revealing a lot of information that would prove to be useful as they continued to try to figure out if Tom's death was an accident or not.

Is there anything I could have done without?

Yes. Personally, I felt like there were a few too many physical descriptions in this story. Maybe it's just how the main character was supposed to be since he is also a mystery writer, but I felt like every time a character was described it felt like too much. I don't really care when I'm reading a book whether someone is attractive or curvaceous or whatever. Just my opinion.

It also felt a little formal how the characters seemed to be described as their first name and last name a lot. After a while it felt repetitive and unnecessary. The same with the labels. Like when PJ would refer to his fiance as his partner or Cam as his bestie. I understand referring to people by your relationship to them, but after a while it felt repetitive to me.

But those are just small things and in the grand scheme of things, I did really enjoy this story. Such a fun group of characters and I really liked the small town setting, with cool restaurants and a fun gay club. I hope that the next book features even more drag queen karaoke!

xo Marian