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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.

Dead, White, and Blue (Death on Demand, #23)

Dead, White, and Blue - Carolyn Hart

Well, I suppose it had to happen sometime, and with 22 books preceding this one, I'd say Ms. Hart has had a very good run.


I tend to think of the cozy-mystery genre as dual tiered.  Well, ok, a tri-tiered system:  The complete and utter crap that doesn't bear thinking about, the books/series that are good –entertaining even– but aren't likely to be re-printed or stand the test of time; 20 years from now they'll be largely forgotten, and finally that slim percentage that rise above; the books that are both cozy and sophisticated.  The quality of the writing make them more likely to be around a couple of decades later.  I'd personally put the Death on Demand Series firmly in this "top tier" of cozy mysteries.  There are 24 books in this series so far and the first 22 were consistently good and often times great.


Alas, Dead, White, and Blue is not the poster book for my argument.


Shell is the kind of woman wives hate—for good reason—and most of them wish she would just disappear. But (...) she does, and a teenage girl is the only one who seems to notice. Last seen walking into the pine trees at the Fourth of July fireworks display, Shell has seemingly vanished without a trace.


Max and Annie Darling are the same beautiful, lovely couple they've always been.  There is no angst here, no personal demons.  Max is a rich dilettante who investigates but isn't a P.I. and Annie is a mystery bookstore owner with a puritanical work ethic.  Their marriage is the stuff of fairy tales, but Ms. Hart manages to make them likeable nonetheless.  They have a close circle of friends who help them investigate, including Max's mom Laurel and best selling author Emma.  The setting is the same breezy, gorgeous, and fictional Broward's Rock Island off the coast of South Carolina.


The problem I had with the book was the repetition.  This one felt like it didn't have enough substance to merit a full-length book.  At least half a dozen times (quite likely more) the reader is walked through a lengthy summation of the crime, the timeline, the suspects and their alibis.  By the halfway mark it become a severe irritant and I began to feel like i was stuck in a Groundhog Day loop.


The plot's story-line was good, but the murderer was telegraphed early on by way of the dog that doesn't bark.  Still, Ms. Hart had a few surprises and a twist or two up her sleeve that made the reading worthwhile.  


The ending was wholly implausible, but so is a perfect marriage; I'm willing to overlook both.  Classic cozies aren't classic because they are an accurate mirror of reality.  Enduring characters, evocative writing and well plotted murders make a classic a classic.  I could be wrong, but Max and Annie feel classic to me and in spite of this less-than-stellar outing, I'm with them until the wheels fall off.