Friday, September 23, 2016

Book Review: Murder at Redwood Cove by Janet Finsilver (Kelly Jackson Mysteries #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great main characters; intriguing puzzle
Cons: Writing needs a tad more polish in places.
The Bottom Line:
Very good debut
In a setting that I loved
With fun characters

Kelly Fills in for a Dead Man

While I love living in Southern California, the one thing I miss from my growing up years in Northern California is redwood forests.  Naturally, that meant when I spotted a book called Murder at Redwood Cove, I knew I had to read it.  It was a wonderful trip to a hidden part of California.

Kelly Jackson is out on her first solo assignment for Resorts International, a company that owns a number of bed and breakfasts.  She’s flying into Mendocino County in northern California to take on the day to day running of Redwood Cove until a replacement manager can be found for Bob Phillips.  Bob’s been running the location for years until a tragic accident left him dead at the bottom of one of the nearby seaside cliffs.

However, not long after Kelly lands, she begins to question whether Bob’s death was an accident.  Then she meets the Silver Sentinels, a group of retired people who have formed a community watch of sorts for the local community.  Bob worked with them occasionally, and he was working on something they didn’t know about.  The more Kelly pokes around, the more certain she is that Bob was murdered.  But can she prove it before something else happens?

Since this is a murder mystery, we as readers know that Bob was killed right away.  However, the book doesn’t really spend much time debating that fact.  Kelly is certain that something strange is going on pretty much from the beginning, and the Silver Sentinels back her up in that belief.  Of course, there’s proving it to the authorities and figuring out exactly what is going on, both of which drive the plot.  The book is filled with events and Kelly’s efforts to use them to narrow down her suspect list.  The climax was a tad rushed, but everything was tied up at the end.

I absolutely loved the characters.  They were rich and sharp right from the start, and I came to truly care for several of them before the book was over.  I can’t wait to spend more time with them.  There’s quite a range of characters, too, from the kids of the employees at the bed and breakfast to the Silver Sentinels, but the author pulled them all off perfectly.  Ironically, I did feel the suspect characters were a tad thin, but that’s a minor issue.

My bigger issue was with the writing.  This is a debut novel, and it was a bit rough near the beginning.  I’m talking about things like a couple missing scene transitions and thing like that.  The entire book was still very readable, and the writing smoothed out as the book progressed, I’m certainly going to read the next one.

And I loved the setting.  While Redwood Cove is fictional, I had no trouble picturing it and the coastline where the small town and the bed and breakfast would be located.  In fact, it made me long for some time up in that area.

Because this is set at a bed and breakfast, we get lots of delicious sounding descriptions of food.  Trust me, there is something here to make everyone’s mouth water.  Unlike many culinary cozies, we don’t get any recipes at the end of the book, but this is worth noting only in passing.

I’m definitely planning a return visit to Redwood Cove.  There may be a few flaws in Murder at Redwood Cove, but any cozy fan will still enjoy this debut.


  1. Can I tell you what I like Mark? Not many reviewers as far as I can tell do the pro/con thing right up front. It's such a good idea because it makes you want to read the review to find out why you feel this way. I'm assuming a lot of people don't want to have to choose a con. You're not afraid and I have a lot of respect for you as a reviewer for this reason as well as many others. I also want to say that it is sad and drives me a little crazy when there are glaring mistakes in books. If you and I can find the mistake why can't the editor? I suppose the editor is reading with such a fine tooth comb they don't catch what I would consider to be a big mistake. I would think that to solve this problem you bring on a person to simply read books. Find mistakes. Report back. Have I thought of something so brilliant it doesn't yet exist?? Lastly I just want to point out that I don't believe this is any fault of the author and I plan to read this book as well as every other book that tickles my fancy no matter how messy it is. And maybe that's the answer right there. Publishers know we will read what we love so they ignore what seems like an easy fix! Have a great day and thanks for doing what you do so well!


    1. Thank you for all the kind words.

      Sometimes I do wonder at what gets by an editor, but at other times, I know from talking to authors they catch a lot.

  2. Sounds like a great start to a new series. Sorry to hear the writing was a bit off but hopefully that will improve in the next book. Thanks for sharing!

    1. It improved by the end of this book, so I'm sure it will be fine for the next one.

  3. Mark, thank you for reviewing my book. I really appreciate it! I'm glad you enjoyed it and loved the characters and the setting. I'm sorry to hear you felt it was bit rough in the beginning and happy to hear you felt it smoothed out. I hope MURDER AT THE MANSION is all "smooth" reading for you. Thanks again!

    1. I'm looking forward to reading Murder at the Mansion very much!

  4. I enjoyed this one also, Mark. Just checked my library for the next one - and it's there - well, not there actually, checked out and three people waiting, lol.

  5. I always enjoy reading your reviews Mark. I don't know that I want to start another cozy mystery at this time but when I am ready I always go back to look at your thoughts.