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jenn

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.

SPOILER ALERT!

Read it and Weep (Library Lover's Mystery #4) or what I felt like doing after putting down this book.

Read It and Weep - Jenn McKinlay

Anyone who has read my previous Jenn McKinlay book reviews knows that I've gushed over her books.  I've held her up as the standard by which modern cozy writers should be judged.  At the very least, I've said her books should be examples to other modern cozy writers of how to write a Good Cozy Mystery.

 

Hear that sound?  That's the sound of one of my most respected authors falling off the pedestal I stuck her up on.

 

Read It and Weep was disappointing in two ways - the plot and the love triangle.

 

Frist let me say that of the three or four (if you count pseudonyms) series Jenn McKinley writes, this one was my favorite.  I love these characters; I got very attached to them from the beginning - from Lindsey and Beth and the rest of the Crafternoon Club to Sully and Ian and Charlie.  I was really pissed when the author ended the last book by messing with the relationship between Lindsey and Sully, but I was willing to go with it, certain it was just a small bump and this book would set things back to rights.  I had faith, dammit!

 

So, what does she do?  She introduces a big, fat, stinking (and I do mean stinking!) love triangle in Read It and Weep.  Sully is still around, but now we have to put up with Robbie, a character that is supposed to be rich, attractive, charming and just a little bit of a womaniser, but only in the most charming way, of course.  Oh, and he has an English accent.

 

For those of you who don't read a lot of cozies, those of us that do are on a love triangle tirade - so many readers I know won't even start a cozy with a love triangle in it and more than a few of them have walked away from a series because the author has introduced a love triangle.  Why?  This is what I posted in response to that very question in one of my groups:

 

I hate them for so many reasons. Because they are rarely done well. Because I get attached to characters and resent the author making me choose between what are often two likeable male suitors. Because I enjoy the tension inherent in the "courting dance" of two characters and adding a third does not increase that tension, it diminishes it because the MC is busy being chaste, moral, ethical, etc. while trying to make up her mind. Because I think it's a cheap dodge on the part of a lot of authors, using it to try to stretch out the aforementioned courting dance for as long as possible. And because every author seems suddenly enamoured with the idea of a love triangle and I'm sick to death of it - it's become an overused cliché.

 

Now, it seems that Ms. McKinlay must have some idea of the love triangle backlash out there because at the end of the book, the crafternoon book club is discussing Pride and Prejudice, after finishing up discussing A Midsummer Nights Dream.  The main point of discussion is how "you must have noticed how both used the classic love triangle to move their plots forward."  The group then goes on to tease Lindsey about her two-man dilemma, asking her if life isn't imitating art for her.

 

Now I try not to see bogeymen where there aren't any, but this feels an awful lot like a moment of defensive justification on the part of the author.  And I say balls to that.  I don't care how many great and wonderful authors used it in the past to great literary effect; I don't care how useful a device it might truly be.  While I think Ms. McKinlay is a good author, she's not in the same league as Jane Austen and Shakespeare; perhaps if she were, I wouldn't mind her love triangles.  But I am OVER it!  It's tired, it's overused.  If love triangles were women, they'd have frizzed out hair, skin like a walnut, and voices like sandpaper.  Love triangles have been rode hard and put away wet.  Let the poor things retire to their double-wides in peace already!

 

Finally, the plot.  

Well, my first very strong hint of the murderer happened on page 56.  Not a good start, and very unlike any J.M. work previously (I'm not counting the books she writes as Josie Bell - I'll not add insult to injury here by including them).  I knew exactly who the murder was on page 105.

(show spoiler)

It's a 276 page book.  I'd honestly call the clue that gave it away a rookie move.  It just screamed out at me.  Maybe it won't to everyone else, I hope it doesn't.  I hope most can read this book and enjoy working on the mystery throughout.  But I was done.  After that second clue there just wasn't anyone else that even came close to being a suspect.

 

I spent the rest of the book waiting for Lindsey and Sully to sort things out and reconcile, but as I've already mentioned - that didn't happen.

 

If I didn't love all the books this woman had written up to this point, Read It and Weep wouldn't have hit me so hard and been so disappointing.  I'm still giving it three stars because it's technically a well-written book, but I've lost a lot of faith in Jenn McKinlay and I am no longer looking forward to her future books with nearly the same excitement.  Indeed, I can't say with any certainty that I'll even continue on with any of them.

 

Hmph.