I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.
This is how cozy writing should be done. Title to the contrary... ;)
Synopsis from book back (edited for brevity):
Sarah Grayson is the proprietor of Second Chance, a shop in North Harbor, Maine. At the shop, she sells used items that she has refurbished and repurposed. But her favorite pet project so far has been adopting a stray cat she names Elvis. ... The big black cat with a scar across his nose turned up at a local bar ... and hopped in Sarah’s truck. Since then, he’s been her constant companion and the furry favorite of everyone who comes into the store.
When Sarah’s elderly friend Maddie is found with the body of a dead man in her garden, the kindly old lady becomes the prime suspect in the murder. So it’s up to Sarah and Elvis to clear her friend’s name and make sure the real murderer doesn’t get a second chance.
I love this book. The characters are all incredibly likeable and the circle of friends spans at least three generations, including, for once, a teenager that is neither sullen nor maladjusted, and a senior citizen with mad tech skills. Extra points to the author for busting out of stereotypes. The author doesn't shoe-horn drama where it shouldn't be either. Conflicts are handled reasonable and rationally. I kept waiting for forced angst and was delighted every time I didn't find any. These characters are all very three-dimensional and fully formed; we don't learn every single thing about their backstories. We learn enough to be getting on with and there's enough left unknown to keep further books rich and interesting.
Lord, I almost forgot to mention Elvis. What can I say? This cat is a bucket of awesome. Non-cat-lovers will scoff at his almost preternatural intelligence but those of us that are owned by cats know better. And he is not without a mysterious past of his own. All by himself, he brings one star of goodness to the book.
Sarah finds herself riding herd on her grandmother's friends as they investigate the murder. I was dreading several things about this story line, but all for naught. I expected this "investigation" to drown in it's own silliness, but everything was done rationally - there weren't any mad interrogations; information came as an outcome of natural conversations. The story started with scorn towards the police and their ability to solve the mystery so I resigned myself to subterfuge and competition. Wrong again. Nothing but cooperation. There was a third thing, but I can't actually remember what it was - I just know it didn't happen.
Most of the setting backdrop is Sarah's Second Chance Shop and Sam's bar. Each of these are described beautifully but sparingly. I didn't get a massive info dump, but I could picture each clearly. I loved the details about what Sarah sold in the shop as well - just enough to add colour, I thought, without getting off-track or bogged down in tangents.
The murder plot was done adequately. If that sounds like I'm damning with faint praise, I'm not. I'm not going to rave about how twisty, clever, or complicated it is, because it's none of those things. But it was a good, well thought out puzzle, with a lot of solid suspects. Clues aren't dropped haphazardly for the reader to guess early; I learned information as the characters did and every single character was intelligent and tuned in. I've read so many cozies where the clues are there in blazing, flashing neon and the author makes the MC so freaking stupid or stubborn, it drives me insane. None of that going on here.
I deducted 1/2 star for two reasons: while there isn't a love triangle in this book, nor even a hint of one, there are two very good looking, strong male characters that anyone would love bringing home to keep for themselves. I've not yet seen an author do this and not turn it into a love triangle. But mostly, someone at Penguin should be slapped upside the head for the number of editing errors in this book. Not story editing errors - the story had zero continuity errors that I could find - but I was tripping over a plethora of wrong, missing, or transposed words. Chapter 15, in particular, was ripe with them. This is the kind of thing that ought to show up on someone's performance review. At the very least, someone at Penguin should be red with embarrassment over it.
I've been reading a lot of very average cozies lately - some good ones too, but a lot of average ones. New entries like this restore my faith that I'll not run out of high quality, light, and entertaining mystery reads any time soon.