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Murder by Death

I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.

A Murder for the Books (Blue Ridge Library Mystery #1)

A Murder for the Books - Victoria Gilbert

Solidly average.


I don't know if this is the author's first book or not, and I generally don't like having a go at the first time authors, but it certainly reads as though it is.  There's a LOT of potential here in the characters, the setting and the plotting, but no way was this really ready for prime time.  Gilbert's editors would have done better by her by holding her to higher standards.


The number one thing that ruins this book is the romance.  I'm not a fan of romance, it's true, but I've never minded a little side action in my mysteries; a bit of romantic/sexual tension, if done right, can ratchet-up a story's level of excitement.  Here, it was not done well.  At all.  Amy (the MC) and Richard are likeable separately, but together they're just a big old awkward mess.  Gilbert managed to make their attempts at flirting, and their sexual tension feel both middle-aged and adolescent at the same time.  I don't even know how that's possible, but she did it.  Both characters are in their mid-30's, so obviously, she's completely missed her target.  I actually found more sexual zing in the empty threats Amy's late-60's aunt made about hitting on Richard.  Relative to this, Amy's angst felt out of proportion to the background Gilbert gave her, and when Richard (a professional dancer and choreographer) tried to play sensitive, yet alpha, male, it was just painful.


Now sometimes failed romance can be overlooked; generally in a mystery it's a smaller proportion of the story.  But unfortunately here it was at least half the story, and it swamped what was an interesting and clever murder mystery plot.  This plot was very good and could have been even better had more attention been given to it.  I liked the characters too, and the setting was well drawn and perfect for cozy crime; the librarian details were a bit of reader catnip for me too.


There's a second book but I don't know if I can be enticed.  I don't like Amy and Richard together. (This is hilarious, by the way, on a personal level: our cats' veterinarians are a married couple named Richard and Amy. I've never even seen them in the same room together, and they're more believable to me as a couple that the two in this book.)   Maybe with time, the potential of the mystery plotting will overcome my aversion to the author's idea of romance.