A Playdate with Death (Mommy-Track Mysteries Series)

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Public defender turned stay-at-home mom Juliet Applebaum is back in top form, investigating the mysterious death of her personal trainer...in-between taming tantrums, planning playdates, and playing dress-up with her two rowdy kids.

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A Playdate With Death

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Public defender turned stay-at-home mom Juliet Applebaum is back in top form, investigating the mysterious death of her personal trainer...in-between taming tantrums, planning playdates, and playing dress-up with her two rowdy kids.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The challenges of motherhood don't hold a candle to the challenge of sleuthing for Juliet Applebaum, the heroine of Waldman's third sparkling "mommy-track" mystery (Nursery Crimes; The Big Nap). Once an L.A. assistant district attorney, now a "somewhat unwilling stay-at-home mom," Juliet uses her legal skills to look into the death of Bobby Katz, her personal trainer. The police write it off as a suicide, but no one close to Bobby, including his fianc e, Betsy, a recovering (barely) drug addict, and his uptight parents, believes that theory. Juliet juggles investigating the case with parenting her two small children, the still-breast-feeding Isaac and his older sister, Ruby. The swift and engaging plot revolves around questions of heredity and genetics. Juliet's palpable, refreshingly honest dislike for the mundane realities of parenting should resonate with many. Juliet is more mom than detective, but there's a sense she wishes it were the other way around. If much of the author's spin on the "joys" of motherhood is familiar, in one interesting thread Juliet tries to fathom her son's desire for a toy gun. Later there's a neat contradiction when Juliet goes to a range and discovers she likes shooting. This witty and well-constructed novel probably won't satisfy serious crime fans who expect passion and intensity (though some minor characters display plenty), but those with a taste for lighter mystery fare are sure to relish the adventures of this contemporary, married, mother-of-two Nancy Drew. Agent, Mary Evans. (June 4) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Why would buff personal trainer Bobby Katz commit suicide when he was happily in love with Betsy, the fiancee he'd met through Narcotics Anonymous, saving for their wedding, bidding on a set of golf clubs on the Internet, and awaiting delivery of a new Palm Pilot? Former public defender turned full-time mom Juliet Applebaum (The Big Nap, 2001, etc.), who counted herself lucky to be one of his clients, decides he might have been murdered. Her snooping puts her in touch with his e-mail buddy "Louise," who'd been helping Bobby track his birth parents-to the dismay of his adoptive family, who'd kept his adoption a secret from him until their other son blurted out the truth. With help from p.i. and gun enthusiast Al Hockey, Juliet locates Bobby's birth mom, a virulently anti-Semitic married woman, whose affair long years ago with a Jew passed the Tay-Sachs gene on to Bobby. Or did it? Could a Gentile be a Tay-Sachs carrier? As Juliet learns more about the disease, and delves more deeply into Bobby's birth and adoptive families and NA friends, she endangers not only her own kids, but slow-to-react Al, before the LAPD comes to agree that Bobby was emphatically not a suicide. Funny tidbits about bringing up toddlers and the liberal mom's dilemma over giving her kids toy guns to play with. Juliet's got charm, spunk, and-given her new partnership with Al-a reason to get out of the house.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780425184738
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/4/2002
  • Series: Mommy-Track Mysteries Series, #3
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.54 (w) x 8.46 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet the Author

Ayelet Waldman

Ayelet Waldman currently lives with her writer-husband Michael Chabon and four children.


Some writers make it all look too easy. Take Ayelet Waldman, for example. The first novel she ever wrote -- heck, the first piece of creative writing she ever attempted -- was not only published, but it launched the successful Mommy-Track mystery series. Six years and eight novels later, Waldman is still wowing fans and critics alike while occasionally moving into more serious territory.

Waldman is most famous for her witty Mommy-Track mysteries, which follow the adventures of Juliet Applebaum. Like her creator, Juliet Applebaum is a former-public defender now playing the role of stay-at-home mom Unlike Waldman, Juliet breaks up her days of parenting with a little amateur sleuthing on the side. Waldman explained the origin of her beloved series during an interview at UC Berkley in 2004. "They grew out of this period in my life when I had left the public defender's office and I was staying home; I started writing them to keep myself entertained."

The novel that Waldman essentially wrote on a self-entertaining lark -- Nursery Crimes -- became the first in a series of lighthearted mysteries that clearly struck a chord among the writer's peers. "I think they kind of hit the market at a time that there were a lot of women like me," Waldman explained. "A lot of ex-lawyers, ex-doctors, ex-CEOs of companies who were finding themselves straight from the boardroom to the sandbox and kind of going crazy, so there was a ready audience for people who were not necessarily all that fulfilled by making homemade play-dough, but nonetheless realized where they were gonna be for the next couple of years."

After the initial four books in the Mommy-Track series (which included such tongue-in-cheek titles as The Big Nap and A Playdate With Death), Waldman decided to use her newfound literary success as an opportunity to try her hand at a non-series novel. "The more I wrote," she said, "the more I realized that [writing] was something that I really loved to do and I wanted to do more with it. I wanted to grow as a writer and I wanted to start writing more serious fiction." Daughter's Keeper, a tale that sheds some critical light on the War on Drugs, revealed that she was more than capable of handling heavier subject matter. As Publishers Weekly noted: "Waldman's passion and affection for her characters shines through."

Having broken into a new realm of writing, Waldman then delivered two more installments in the Juliet Applebaum adventures before penning her second non-series novel. Like all of her previous works, Love and Other Impossible Pursuits addresses Waldman's favorite subject, motherhood, but this time around she also touches on the grittier issues of grief and death. Once again, Waldman's foray outside of her popular series has proved a resounding success. In Chelsea Cain's laudatory review in The New York Times, she described Love and Other Impossible Pursuits as "a romantic, shocking and sometimes painful page-turner does the unthinkable: it actually says something new and interesting about women, families and love."

While more Mommy-Track mysteries are likely on the way from the prolific Waldman, the side roads she has taken thus far confirm that she is a writer willing to defy expectations.

In addition...
Waldman is also noted for the controversy that followed the publication of her 2005 essay "Motherlove." The essay, first published in the anthology Because I Said So: 33 Mothers Write About Children, Sex, Men, Aging, Faith, Race and Themselves, sparked a heated national debate about the nature of love, marriage, and motherhood.

Good To Know

Some interesting outtakes from our interview with Waldman:

"My children are my inspiration. I write about mothers, and about maternal ambivalence. No matter what I set out to do, it seems, I end up writing about that. My four kids have veto power on anything I write about them, but the only time it's ever been exercised is when my eight-year-old told me never to write about breastfeeding him ever again, as long as he and I both walked the earth."

"My husband and I both edit one another's work. Nothing leaves the house that the other hasn't gone over with a fine-toothed comb.

"Nursery Crimes, my first murder mystery, was the first piece of fiction -- the first piece of creative writing -- I ever did.

"I have no hobbies, other than reading. I love to read, and on my web site I keep a log of every book I read, along with a few words about the book and about what I thought. Check it out at www.ayeletwaldman.com

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    1. Hometown:
      Berkeley, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 11, 1964
    2. Place of Birth:
      Jerusalem, Israel
    1. Education:
      Wesleyan University, 1986; Harvard Law School, 1991
    2. Website:

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2002

    Good Book

    This is a suprising example of an author of whom I had never read before. Very short but keeps you guessing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 16, 2002

    Don't Judge a Book by it's Cover

    When I first saw this book I thought that it was probably going to be really cheesy. The title just made it sound dumb. I took the book home anyway and just started reading it. I could not put it down! I read it cover-to cover in only a few hours. This is an excellent story that is easy to relate to. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good story that is easy to read. A definite page-turner!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2002

    intricate cozy

    She is on indefinite leave from her job as a public defender but Juliet Applebaum isn¿t satisfied being a stay at home mom to her two children. The only time she is truly happy is when she can fit a murder investigation into her hectic schedule. When her friend and trainer is found dead the police rule it a suicide but Juliet¿s instincts go into overdrive. <P> In Juliet¿s expert opinion, Bobby was a laid back, easygoing guy with no apparent reason to kill himself. She convinces his girlfriend to give her Bobby¿s computer to see if there is anything on it that would give a clue to her trainer¿s state of mind before he died. She discovers that Bobby was searching for his biological parents and when Juliet starts questioning those involved in the search, somebody reacts by threatening her family. <P> A PLAYDATE WITH DEATH is an intricate cozy that stars a protagonist that is impossible to dislike. Her frustrations and troubles with being a stay at home parent add comic relief to a very serious and believable story line. Ayelet Waldman is a natural storyteller who has created such an intricate mystery that readers will want to finish the book in one sitting while obtaining other Mommy-Track novels. <P>Harriet Klausner

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