Monday, March 18, 2019

Book Review - Trouble on the Books

Trouble on the Books
Author:  Essie Lang
Publisher:  Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date:  March 13, 2019
3 Stars

Shelby Cox returns home to Alexandria Bay to help operate Bayside Books while her aunt Edie is recovering from knee surgery.  Shelby’s main responsibility is to manage the store’s second location which is located in a castle on nearby Blye Island.  Even when Shelby finds out she is part owner in the stores, she is still very nervous as she doesn’t have any experience in running a bookstore.

Before the store on Blye Island has a chance to open, Shelby finds Loreena Swan, curator of the exhibits and the heritage attraction of Blye Castle, dead in the island’s grotto.  A grotto that was used by smugglers during the Prohibition Era.  Matthew, the caretaker of the island, becomes the main suspect.  Matthew is a close friend of Edie’s, and she entreats Shelby to find out what really happened to Loreena.  Shelby realizes that she knows nothing about investigating except what she has read about in mystery books, but she agrees to help by asking some questions.  Besides, she is curious about what the grotto has to do with Loreena’s death.  How many questions can she ask though before she steps on the wrong person’s toes?  And if she does, what will that mean for her?

This book is a good start to the new Castle Bookstore Mystery series.  It has such a fun setting.  It is always fun to see a bookstore as a jumping off point for a cozy mystery.  This story adds a unique twist by having the bookstore situated in a castle (it’s not often we have a castle setting in an American novel) and on an island which is just offshore from the small town of Alexandria Bay.  Small towns provide such a good setting to uncover information because everyone seems to know everyone else’s business. Town gossip definitely fuels Shelby’s investigation, and spreads the word that Shelby is looking into the murder.

The investigation is somewhat slow.  It feels like it takes Shelby a long time to gather any information and then to come to any conclusions.    However, the author uses this time to really develop the background stories of the inhabitants of the town, many of which will probably be recurring characters in future installments.  Since Shelby (and the reader) are just getting to know people, it is hard to cross anyone off the list of possible suspects.  So that creates a rather large suspect pool, but it helps to keep the reader guessing.

On top of the murder mystery there is a secondary mystery embedded in this book.  Shelby’s mother died when she was three.  She knows very little about her since she was so young when she died, and her father would never talk about her.  Shelby guessed it was just too painful for him to relive the memories.  Since she is back in her hometown though, Shelby sets out to find out more about her mom.  She tries to talk to her aunt about her, but aunt Edie always seems to dodge the questions and then changes the subject.  She tries to track down her mother’s grave, but turns up empty handed.  She wonders why she is having such a hard time of finding people in this small town that actually knew her mother.  All Shelby wants is to find out more about her mother, but all she finds are closed doors.

Thanks to Net Galley and Crooked Lane Books for an ARC of this book.  #NetGalley #TroubleOnTheBooks

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