Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Book Review: Fatal Brushstroke by Sybil Johnson (Aurora Anderson #1)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Intriguing mystery, good characters, fun setting
Cons: All cons painted over
The Bottom Line:
Body in backyard
Someone out to frame Rory
Delightful debut

Paint This Debut a Winner

This month, I seem to be finally getting to some of the books I bought at Bouchercon when it was in Long Beach.  It’s only taken me, what, a year and a half to get to them?  I wish I had gotten to Fatal Brushstroke sooner since it is a fantastic mystery debut.

One morning, Aurora “Rory” Anderson hears her neighbor’s dog barking in Rory’s own backyard.  Going outside to find out what is disturbing the dog, she discovers a hand buried back there.  She quickly calls the police, but even before they dig up the body attached to the hand, Rory has made the connection.  The body is that of Hester Bouquet.

Hester is a well-respected tole painting instructor and pattern designer.  Rory hadn’t seen Hester since she took an intensive weekend long class a couple of weeks before.  However, with a chief of police who has a grudge against Rory, Rory knows she has to find the killer herself.  However, it seems like the evidence that turns up points to her.  Can Rory clear her name?

Hester’s body is discovered on the very first page.  You don’t get any faster of a start than that.  The book keeps a steady pace from there until the end of the book with clues and complications sprinkled throughout to keep us guessing.  I thought I knew what was happening a couple of times before we reached the logical end.

We are introduced to an intriguing group of characters in this book.  Rory and the other series regulars are fun characters, and I enjoyed spending time with them.  The suspects were all intriguing and perfectly believable, which is important to keep us guessing.

Like with most of the hobby/cozy series out there, tole painting (aka decorative painting, which features painting on wood, fabric, or some other medium like that) is a great hook, but for those of us who don’t have this hobby, you won’t find so many details that it bogs down the story.  In fact, I found just enough information to make me want to pick up the hobby, which always happens in the best of series.  (Now to quickly pick up another book so the desire passes.)

The book is set in the fictional town of Vista Beach along the coast in Los Angeles County.  I loved the setting.  Okay, so it helps that I love the beach, but I want to move to the town and settle in myself.

The consolation for waiting so long to read Fatal Brushstroke is that the sequel is already out, so I can revisit these new friends soon.  Don’t put off picking up this artistically done debut.


  1. This does sound really fun! I've had this book on my TBR for awhile and this review really does make me want to run out and get it. I do love a book with a hobby - especially when it's one I don't know all that much about.

    1. Don't put it off too much longer. Go get it and read it!

  2. This one sounds great ~ I won a copy and look forward to it arriving.

  3. I read this on a long flight and time, well, flew! Great debut. I met Sybil last year at Malice and she's a really nice person.

    1. I love it when you have a wonderful book to dive into on a long flight. I can see how this one would definitely do that for you.

  4. Congratulations, Sybil, on this great review. I look forward to reading FATAL BRUSHSTROKES!

  5. Sounds like a perfect beach read! :-)

    1. With that setting, it's definitely a perfect beach read.