Friday, May 31, 2013

Book Review: Dead to Writes by Cathy Wiley (Cassandra Ellis #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Real characters
Cons: Pacing issues in plot
The Bottom Line:
Cassie came alive
Plot pacing could be better
Overall, I liked

Book Launch Turned Deadly

Hobby mysteries have become so common that it's actually very rare to run across a series that stars an author these days.  But that's the case with Dead to Writes, the first in a new series featuring debut mystery author Cassie Ellis.

All her life, Cassie Ellis has dreamed of being a published author.  And now that dream is days away from becoming reality.  But what should be a great celebration turns tragic when someone shots Seth Montgomery.  Seth is a convicted arsonist that Cassie has used in research for one of her books.  And since the police find Cassie's day planner next to the body, they haul her in for questioning.

Cassie can't quite get a read on Detective James Whittaker.  Is she a suspect or not?  Plus there's the attraction they are both trying to hide, at least until this case is resolved.  Then another of Cassie's contacts is killed with the same gun.  Who will the killer target next?  Is Cassie a target?  Or do the police still consider her a suspect?

Often, I find it takes me two books to really get a feel for the characters in a series.  That wasn't the case here at all.  Cassie, James, and their friends already feel like real people, and I loved spending time with them.  Cassie spends much of the book feeling responsible for the murders, and I found her guilt realistic.  Fortunately, it also motivates her to figure out who the killer is or it might have turned things too depressing.

The book starts very strongly, with the first murder taking place within a few pages.  I was quickly pulled into the story.  Unfortunately, the pacing turns uneven in the middle with a few stretches where the characters don't seem to learn anything new.  But things pick up again for the climax which had me turning pages as quickly as I could to find out how they'd stop the killer.

But the characters always kept me happy to be reading this book.  I could actually feel the tension between Cassie and James any time they were on the page together.  Their flirting made for some fun laughs.  Some of the other characters added a nice touch of humor at times as well.

From the writing, you'd never guess it was a debut mystery.  It never once pulled me out of the story.  I especially appreciated the author's attention to point of view.  While most of the book is written third person from Cassie's point of view, we do switch to James occasionally.  When we do, it is always obvious and we stay there for the rest of the scene.  Since sloppy point of view is one of my biggest pet peeves, I liked this.

Dead to Writes is a fun debut that leaves me looking forward to more.  I can't wait to see how Cassie and James' relationship progresses and what trouble they get into next.

FCC Note: Cathy Wiley is a friend who sent me the book in exchange for an honest review.

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