Monday, April 29, 2013

Book Review: Murder in Miniature by Margaret Grace (Miniature Mysteries #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Gerry, Maddie, and Skip, twists to the plot
Cons: Linda, too many asides in the writing
The Bottom Line:
Needs smoother writing
But enjoyable story
And some brand new friends

Miniature Problems for this Murder Mystery

If you want to write a cozy mystery these days, you need some kind of hook, preferably with a crafts theme.  That's how we got Murder in Miniature, the first in a new series.  The action takes place in a small town, Lincoln Point to be exact.  But the twists and turns were anything but tiny.

Geraldine "Gerry" Porter got talked into serving as the chair of the summer craft fair.  Granted, she was going to be there anyway selling what she could from her many dollhouses and miniatures.  She even took advantage of her position to place herself next to Linda Reed, a friend and follow miniaturist.

But the fair hasn't been open long when Linda disappears only to call Gerry in the middle of the night from a pay phone in the middle of nowhere.  When Gerry picks her up, Linda refuses to answer any questions.  But the questions get even bigger when the body of an unidentified woman is discovered in the same location.  What is going on?  How is Linda connected?  Can Gerry clear her friend or will her digging just create more problems?

The pacing was a little off here as the book started out slowly.  There were several scenes at the craft fair that could have been tighter.  Then again, maybe that's just because I am not a fan of craft fairs in real life.  Once the body is discovered, things pick up.  There are quite a few interesting twists before the book reaches a satisfying and exciting conclusion that didn't quite go the way I expected.

Gerry is an endearing character.  A widow, she hasn't quite moved on with her life, but she is also striving to enjoy life as best she can.  Her granddaughter Maddie is visiting for most of the book, and I loved their interactions.  Maddie is a very smart 10-year-old, but she's not overly smart.  I also enjoyed Skip, Gerry's nephew and a policeman trying to get promoted to detective.  Even with that relationship in place, there is a realistic relationship between Gerry and the police.  What do I mean by that?  The police don't share all the clues they have with Gerry.  In fact, it's mostly a one way street, which provides for a refreshing change.

On the other hand, Linda doesn't work as a character at all.  We are supposed to feel sorry for her and root for Gerry to clear her.  After the first chapter, I was rooting for her to be the murder victim.  She is overly harsh to Gerry.  While that does soften as the book progresses, I never did understand why the two are friends.  Yes, we are told about how Linda was such a help when Gerry's husband was dying.  But why were they friends before that?  She really needed something to let us see the good in her that Gerry saw to make her a sympathetic character.

With the town being Lincoln Point, there are quite a few references to President Lincoln, including murals around town and street names.  Heck, one of the main drags is Gettysburg.  It may not have added much to the plot, but I did smile each time I ran across one of these.

The writing is very polished, making this an easy read.  The story is told first person from Gerry's point of view.  However, she feels the need every so often to break into the flow for an aside, sometimes explaining or over explaining what just happened and sometimes to mentally correct a character's grammar.  A little bit of that is fine and even fun.  But as the book progressed, it got old in a hurry.

Murder in Miniature is one of those books I didn't want to put down when I was reading, but I didn't want to pick up again when I wasn't.

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