Sunday, March 31, 2013

Book Review: Deadly Appraisal by Jane K. Cleland (Josie Prescott #2)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Real and fun characters
Cons: Slow start
The Bottom Line:
Characters help book
Overcome slow starting plot
Make book worth reading

Josie finds Murder at a Silent Auction

Antiques dealer Josie Prescott has had her life turned upside down. After testifying in a price fixing scheme in New York and losing her father, she moved to a small town in New Hampshire. Unfortunately, she has found that life in a small town isn't always quiet either. And she finds more danger in Deadly Appraisal, the second book in the series.

Prescott Antiques is beginning to thrive and Josie is truly beginning to build a life for herself in New Hampshire. She is absolutely delighted to be hosting the annual fundraiser for the Portsmouth Women's Guild. The silent auction has gone well, and the fundraiser looks to be a huge success. But, just as he winners are about to be announced, event coordinator Maisy Gaylor dies on stage, the victim of poison.

Josie had been working closely with Maisy to plan the event, and Josie can't think of a quieter, nicer woman. Who could have possibly wanted her dead?

With boyfriend Ty Alvarez, the local chief of police, out of town, Josie finds herself dealing with the gruff and unfriendly Detective Rowcliff. Rowcliff seems to be treating her as a suspect until he makes a startling statement, Josie could have been the intended victim. At first it seems crazy, but then Josie learns that someone from her past in New York is out of jail. Who was supposed to drink the poison? And who is the killer?

The story starts out with a bang, just after the murder. Even so, it took me a little while to get into the story. I'm blaming this more on my lack of reading time then on the book itself because once I had the time to sit down and read, I got hooked. I thought I had the killer figured out early on, but the constant red herrings kept making me forget about them. There are a few sub-plots involving antiques. Since I'm not a fan, I am glad to report those don't slow the action down for long.

The characters are real, and the supporting cast is entertaining. I was a little surprised to see the romantic interest shoved aside so soon in the series, but I think it was deliberate to make Josie have to deal with Rowcliff. He was someone we love to hate, which is always fun. Josie's employees are real and interesting, as are the suspects. But my favorite supporting character is local reporter Wes Smith. His paranoia is funny, and I've got to wonder about all his sources.

Josie herself is often an emotional wreck. That's a change from the strong main characters I am used to who rarely show emotion. A couple times it got annoying. However, considering everything the character has been through, I find it much more realistic then the books I normally read.

The writing is a little uneven. It's written at a higher reading level then what I normally read, which means I can't fly through it. The problem comes with some of the dialogue. Every so often, I caught the author falling into patterns: dialogue, tag, adverb phrase, dialogue, tag, adverb phrase. Fortunately, that kind of thing only happened in a few scenes and wasn't repeated throughout the entire book.

The book got stronger as it went along, and by the end, I couldn't put Deadly Appraisal down. This is another enjoyable entry in the series.

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