Saturday, April 27, 2013

Book Review: Murder Most Maine by Karen MacInerney (Gray Whale Inn Mysteries #3)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Charming setting with a strong mystery
Cons: Weak "suspect" characters
The Bottom Line:
Mystery is strong
But suspects could be stronger
Still, it's a good read

Health Food or Death Food?

It's been a year and a half since we last got to visit Cranberry Island and the Gray Whale Inn.  Frankly, I was thrilled to get back via the third book in the series, Murder Most Maine.  The main character is Natalie Barns, a Texas transplant who bought and restored the bed and breakfast on the island off the coast of Maine.  But life on the small island has been anything but peaceful.

The Gray Whale Inn is hosting a weight loss retreat.  Natalie is hoping that, if things go well, this might become an annual event.  True, she has to cook three meals a day instead of just breakfast.  Heck, with all the health food around, maybe she will loose a few pounds, too.

But when the group arrives, things start to go south quickly.  While all the women on Cranberry Island start lusting over trainer Dirk DeLeon, it's the female leader who has Natalie seeing green.  Turns out that Vanessa visited the island for a couple summers and had some romantic flings with the men there, including Natalie's boyfriend John.  While he insists they are just friends now, they sure do seem awfully chummy.

The dieters have been on the island for less than a day when, out for a jog, they find a body.  Rumors quickly start flying that John is a suspect.  But he couldn't have done it, could he?  And if not, who did?

Even though it had been a while since I read the last book, I fell into the characters and setting again very easily.  This is a cozy series with plenty of charm, so it's hard not to like our main characters.  Natalie is a warm, caring person.  John's distance did bother me and seemed a bit of a contrivance for the plot more than anything else, honestly.  The other locals are back and as fun as ever, including one who is really beginning to come into her own after the last book (don't want to spoil anything).

The retreat participants could have been a bit better developed, however.  It took a while to remember all of them, partially because they were all dumped on us at once.  With a little work, I could keep them all straight, but most of them didn't seem to have much personality.

The main plot and a sub-plot weave in and out of each other as the book progresses.  Between the two, there really isn't a dull moment.  I did guess the culprit during the second half of the novel, but it was a lucky guess.  I was still anxious to see if I was right.  And the climax was great.

The last two books have featured breakfast and dessert recipes in the back.  This one has six more recipes, including a couple of the meals that the dieters ate during the book.  But leave it to me to find the "Midnight Mint Bars," a chocolate and peppermint bar cookie and definitely not low fat, the most tempting.

Natalie is our first person narrator for the story.  The writing is fluid, making for a book that reads faster than it seems.

Despite the flaws, I greatly enjoyed Murder Most Maine.  I'm hoping it isn't as long before we get to visit the Gray Whale Inn again.

And if you are looking for another visit, check out the Gray Whale Inn Mysteries in order.

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