Friday, March 8, 2013

Book Review: Murder on the Rocks by Karen MacInerney (Gray Whale Inn Mysteries #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: A classic cozy with a modern feel.
Cons: Could have given a better sense of place earlier in the story.
The Bottom Line:
A few flaws in book
But it still holds promise of
Good series to come

Fun Straight Up

Natalie Barnes is fulfilling a lifelong dream. She recently moved from Texas to Cranberry Island off the coast of Maine after buying the Gray Whale Inn. Now she's trying to make a living running the bed and breakfast.

She's only been open a few months when trouble arrives on the island in the form of Bernard Katz. He's developed lots of resorts for the rich and famous all over the world and has his sights set on the land next to the Gray Whale Inn for his next project.

Bernard is staying at the Gray Whale during his visit to the island. The morning after the city council votes to sell him the needed land, Natalie finds his lifeless body at the bottom of some cliffs. Unfortunately, she also finds herself as the chief suspect, not only in the minds of the police, but also in the minds of the villagers. Natalie is going to have to do some poking around on her own to find the real killer if she's going to stay out of jail.

This is a debut novel by Karen MacInerney with lots of promise. Natalie is a strong, likeable heroine. She is surrounded by a great cast of characters. I especially liked her niece, Gwen, who I hope to see again in future installments. And the love interest, neighbor John Quinton, is a great balance for Natalie.

The plot is strong as well and progresses at a steady pace over the course of the novel. While several things were obviously set up before hand, like the location of the climax, I didn't know who the killer was until the end. I don't care as much if I know where Natalie will find a clue as long as I don't know where that clue will lead.

There were a couple problems, however. First, two of the characters were named Charlene and Claudette. Maybe it's just me, but I had a hard time keeping them straight and had to think anytime one of them was mentioned to remember which character this was. More importantly, I really didn't get a feel for the size of the island until I was at least at the half waypoint. Creating a better sense of place earlier in the book would have helped. This was hindered by a writing style that was decent, but could have used a bit of polish. This is a debut novel, and I'm sure the author will get more comfortable as the series progresses.

Since this book is set at a bed and breakfast, there are several mouth-watering scenes describing food. I was glad to see several recipes in the back of the book, and I hope to get a chance to try one or two soon.

On the whole, my complaints are minor. By the time Murder on the Rocks ended, I felt like I knew the characters and the settings. I certainly enjoyed my time there. I plan a return visit to the Gray Whale Inn when the next book comes out.

Once you've booked your first stay, you'll want to enjoy the rest of the Gray Whale Inn Mysteries in order.

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