by Cynthia Chow
This week we have reviews and giveaways of 2 mysteries with book-related settings-Bookclubbed to Death: A Mystery Bookshop Mystery by V.M. Burns and Death in the Margins: A Blue Ridge Library Mystery by Victoria Gilbert. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of both books and links to purchase them at the end of each review–you may not be able to see the Amazon links if you have ad blocker on.
Bookclubbed to Death: A Mystery Bookshop Mystery by V.M. Burns
Review by Cynthia Chow
After a tornado blows through Michigan and floods the North Harbor Library, Street Mysteries Bookstore owner Samantha Washington is unable to risk a call for help. It seems like a no-brainer for Sam to offer to host the library’s bookclubs in her own bookstore, especially now that she’s about to become a published author herself. This would not only give her the opportunity to meet members who include award-winning journalists, academics, and book reviewers, it also allows her to share her love of mystery books. Too bad that the president of the bookclub is an infamous newspaper book reviewer who immediately takes a dislike to the bookstore, Sam’s adorable toy poodles Oreo and Snickers, and – yikes – the review copy of Sam’s new book. When Delia Marshall accuses the eight-pound Snickers of causing her to fall down and threatens to sue, Sam is forced into crisis mode and immediately calls her attorney sister Jenna Rutherford for legal advice. Sam’s going to need even more help, though, when Delia is found dead in the bookstore, bludgeoned to death by the very $1000 Agatha Christie book she had ordered. Investigating Detective Montgomery Deevers has a respectable but not exactly amenable relationship with Jenna, but it’s the new rookie detective who seems more than ready to declare Sam’s guilt and close the book on the investigation.
Luckily for Sam’s sanity, she can always find solace in the fictional world she created in 1939 world of Wickfield Lodge, England. Through the escapades of Lady Elizabeth Marsh and her nieces, Sam is subconsciously able to unravel the knot of her present life by mirroring the events in her next book. Into the lives of the Duke of Kingsfordshire, his wife, and their cousins enters King George VI, or as Lady Elizabeth calls him, “Bertie.” Their concerns over a coming war and Nazi Germany somehow becomes a refuge for Sam’s subconscious the more she learns about Delia and her unethical reviewing practices. Delia is more than willing to destroy reputations and careers through her reviews, so if one of her victims took revenge, it will take an expert in mystery plotting and solving puzzles to find the killer. Which Sam just happens to be.
This eighth in the series is yet another ingenious installment serving up a double dose of classic historical and cozy mystery reading. The two plot lines of Sam’s work-in-progress and her own “real-life” murder are equally compelling, filled with likable characters and clever dialogue. Sam’s engagement with restauranteur Frank Patterson is rolling along nicely, with both fulfilling their lifelong dreams even if it is later than expected. Mystery fans will adore the puzzles and mix of mystery genres, not to mention Sam and her genial friends and family. This series always delivers fun plotting and clever dialogues between characters, whether through the teasing of a beleaguered local detective or the friendly rivalry of sisters. This cozy mystery is the perfect way to start off the year on a high note through hours of entertaining reading pleasure.
Death in the Margins: A Blue Ridge Library Mystery by Victoria Gilbert
Review by Cynthia Chow
Even though he’s no longer dancing professionally, Richard Muir has stayed immersed in his beloved profession by teaching dance at Clarion University and choreographing special events and hired gigs. Richard and his former dance partner Karla Tansen are also in charge of the local school’s summer dance institute, which has them creating a special performance they call The Folklore Suite at the new Art Deco movie theater. Richard’s wife, Blue Ridge Library Director Amy Webber Muir, fully supports Richard’s partnership with Karla, but Amy does raise her eyebrows when they hire his ex-fiancée Meredith Fox as a dancer. Not only did Meredith dump Richard to run off to marry another man, her demanding attitude and brutal insults to the other dancers have made her mostly unhireable by other companies. When Amy finds Meredith murdered backstage at the theater, the surprise isn’t so much that she was killed but that the man standing over her is the promising young dancer Conner Vogler. Conner lost a scholarship due to Meredith’s low vote in a dance competition, giving the teenager ample reasons for wanting revenge. Amy and Richard know that Conner wasn’t the only one to have felt the effects of Meredith’s spite, and they can’t believe that the talented sixteen year old could have been driven to murder.
Having had an alarming amount of experience investigating murder in the town of Taylorsford, Virginia, it doesn’t take long for Amy to begin working with Chief Deputy Brad Tucker to track down Meredith’s many exes and resentful rivals. Amy spotted Meredith’s wealthy ex-husband on site not long before her death, but even more suspicious are the clues that indicate that Meredith was involved in blackmail. Amy’s reputation for investigating may have spread too far, though, as her aunt’s garden is vandalized and threatening texts are sent. The attitude that The Show Must Go On has Richard’s dance production continuing while Amy must sift through the suspects of those who fell victim to Meredith’s cruelty and greed.
This seventh in the series welcomes readers back home to Taylorsford and to Amy’s delightful circle of friends and family. Amy spends more time with the Richard’s dancers than she does within her adored Blue Ridge Library, but she still shares her love of reading and encourages her patrons to make the most of the library’s services. An attack within the Clarion University Library nearly puts an ironic end to our beloved librarian, but nothing could sway Amy from her chosen profession or her love for investigating. An abundance of information and red herrings makes the final solution a complete surprise, with enough jeopardy in play to keep readers on the edge of their seats. A heart-warming new discovery by Amy promises so much more fun and adventure in her future, leaving readers anticipating more but still rewarded by the satisfying end.
To enter to win a copy of both books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “books” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen January 28, 2023. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. If you are entering via email please include you mailing address in case you win, it will be deleted after the contest. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also listen to our new mystery podcast where mystery short stories and first chapters are read by actors! They are also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. A new episode went up this week.
Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.