Friday, September 19, 2014

Book Review: Foul Play at the Fair by Shelley Freydont (Celebration Bay Mysteries #1)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Rich characters and a mystery you truly care about
Cons: Only if you don’t enjoy festivals
The Bottom Line:
Harvest festival
Finds Liz juggling murder
Richly developed

Debut Worth Celebrating

At some point in the last 12 months, the Celebration Bay Mysteries truly hit my radar, and I knew I had to check them out.  I mean, seriously, what’s not to love about a town that throws an event for every holiday?  That’s what lead me to Foul Play at the Fair.  After all, with a harvest festival theme, this was the perfect time to read the book, right?

After the mill closed down, Celebration Bay, New York, decided to live up to its name.  The residents keep the local economy going by putting on big events to celebrate the season, no matter what the season might be.  These events have gotten so big that they’ve hired a full time event coordinator, Liz Montgomery, who has gladly moved out of Manhattan and is looking forward to settling in and enjoying her new life.

Unfortunately, her first big event is marred by murder when one of the juggling troop brought in for the harvest festival is found murdered – stuffed in an apple press on a local farm.  Even more shocking is the victim’s true identity.  With ties to the local community, suddenly everyone is looking at each other with suspicion and the future of the festivals is under attack.  Liz knows the only way to save the town she wants to call home is to find the killer.  But can she get anyone to open up to her so she can learn the truth?

You want the truth from me?  I was surprised at how quickly I came to care for these characters.  I felt like this was several books into the series instead of just the first.  I was actually tearing up a few times near the end as the final secrets were being revealed – that’s how much I cared.  It certainly helped that Liz was new to town, and we got to know the characters through her.  She is a strong and sympathetic heroine, and I know that helped draw me in as well.

Needless to say, with characters I cared about that much, I was fully invested in the story.  It felt just a tad slow at the beginning as the characters were being introduced and established, but before I knew it I was turning pages quickly, always upset when I had to put the book down and go back to the real world.  By the end, I didn’t regret any time spent on character introduction and was trying to figure out who the killer might be that wouldn’t leave me upset.  The climax was original and very suspenseful as well.

One thing I appreciated was how the story explored how the characters were feeling about events.  It did this without slowing down the plot in the slightest, but when I saw how everything happening truly affected the characters, it made me that much more invested in the outcome.

Fortunately, the next book in the series is set at Christmas, so I have already included the book in my list of books to read in December.  If it holds up to Foul Play at the Fair, I am in for another fun and exciting mystery with wonderful characters.

And once you visit, you want to read the rest of the Celebration Bay Mysteries in order.

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