Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Book Review: To Helvetica and Back by Paige Shelton (Dangerous Type Mysteries #1)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Wonderful characters
Cons: Characters overshadow mystery
The Bottom Line:
A strangers with a
Typewriter obsession drives
Average debut

Who Killed the Stranger?

Among the authors I’ve been meaning to try is Paige Shelton.  And, as I like to do, I decided that a new series was the perfect place to try her books, which is why I picked up To Helvetica and Back.  Sadly, the book wasn’t the ringing endorsement of this author I was expecting.

After years following her grandfather, Chester, around his shop, The Rescued Word, Clare Henry fell into joining him.  Together, the duo repair old typewriters and old books as well as sell pens and stationary.  Because of the diversified nature of their business, they manage to do well as the times change, and they’ve carved out a place in the touristy town of Star City, Utah.

One of their most loyal customers is Mirabelle, who happens to be Chester’s friend.  She’s just brought in her old typewriter to be repaired, but she’s quickly followed by a stranger who demands to buy that typewriter.  Not a similar one, but Mirabelle’s exact typewriter.    He only leaves when Clare calls the police.  The next morning, Clare and Chester find the stranger dead behind their shop.  Why did he want the typewriter?  Did that lead to his murder?

The characters in this book are wonderful.  Clare has lived in Star City all her life, and she has some good friends in the area.  Those relationships make the book much richer.  Additionally, the book doesn’t fall into the character cliches of many of the series I read, which was refreshing.  These are already real people, and I loved spending time with them.  We get several sub-plots related to the characters, which really helps us get to know them.

Unfortunately, those sub-plots overwhelm the main mystery.  Don’t get me wrong, there is always something going on, and I was gleefully turning the pages to find out what would happen next.  However, as I neared the end, I realized that the main mystery had suffered under all the stuff with the characters.  This was confirmed as we reached the climax, which was very very rushed.

If this were a later book in the series, I probably wouldn’t mind the weak mystery since I would love spending time with the characters.  However, as an introduction to the author, I found To Helvetica and Back weak.  It was still an enjoyable read, but I wish the mystery had been stronger.

NOTE: I was sent a copy of this book in hopes I would review it.


  1. That's too bad this was such a weak mystery. I've read a few boosk by the author and enjoyed them though I wouldn't say she's my favorite. I remember when this was published and there was another book by her that was another new series that got published right at the same time and I remember thinking that it seemed weird. Maybe she felt too much pressure to get both books written and the plot ended up suffering? If I remember correctly she does tend to go a bit subplot heavy but I don't remember the mystery being quite this week in the others. You might want to try the first in her cooking school series. There were some flaws but I remember enjoying it.

    1. I figure she must have some great series out there because she has so many fans.

      The two series that started about the same time were from different publishers. Who knows why they came out so close to each other, but I doubt she had any control over it.

  2. Maybe with such good character build up, the next book will dig a little deeper onto the mystery side of things.

    1. I hope so, although usually it's the opposite, mystery is king early on in a series, and then characters edge out the mystery later (if it happens at all).