Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Book Review: A Dark and Stormy Murder by Julia Buckley (Writer's Apprentice Mysteries #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters, fun plot
Cons: A few issues near the end
The Bottom Line:
Writing with idol
Dead body on the lake’s beach
Recipe for fun

Chance of a Lifetime.  Plus Murder.

I’ve been a fans of the comic strip Peanuts and especially Snoopy’s failed writing career for years.  Naturally, that means that a book entitled A Dark and Stormy Murder would peak my interest.  I finally put it on the top of my TBR pile, and I’m glad I did.

No, the book doesn’t revolve around anything Peanuts related.  In fact, the book plays off Gothic tropes.  You see, the book centers on Lena London.  She’s long been a fan of the Gothic suspense novels of Camilla Graham, so she is shocked when her friend announces that she knows Camilla.  But when Lena, an aspiring novelist, gets the chance to work for Camilla, polishing her newest novel, Lena jumps at the chance.

And so Lena moves to the small town of Blue Lake, Indiana, and into the mansion that Camilla has inherited from her husband.  Lena arrives in town just before a bad rainstorm.  That afternoon, Lena finds the dead body of a local young man on the shore of the lake near Camilla’s home.  Why was he killed?

There is certainly a level of wish fulfillment in this book as Lena gets to work with her idol.  I mean, who wouldn’t want to do that.  Lena finds herself living a wonderful life, and it’s easy to slip into that fantasy.  I did feel that went too far too quickly near the end of the book, but it was a mostly minor issue.

Meanwhile, the plot is intriguing.  While I haven’t read many (if any) Gothic suspense novels, I could certainly recognize some of the things from that genre that author Julia Buckley was adding to the usual cozy elements here.  As a result, the story doesn’t evolve in a typical cozy manner, but that change of pace was fun.  My lack of knowledge of gothic novels might have made me miss a couple of things, but if so, I didn’t notice, and everything here made sense to me as presented.  A sub-plot involving the mysterious man next door adds to the fun.  The pacing and timeline were a little off near the end, but again, that’s a mostly minor issue.  The ending will definitely make you want to pick up the next in the series.

It’s hard not to like the characters.  I can only think of a couple that I hadn’t warmed up to by the end of the book.  Yes, Lena learns a lesson about judging a book by its cover (to steal an appropriate cliché) here.

To add to the fun, each chapter of this book opens with an appropriate excerpt from Camilla’s work in progress, the book that she and Lena are working on in this story.

A Dark and Storm Murder is fun debut.  I’m certainly looking forward to picking up the sequel soon.

You'll definitely want to pick up the rest of the Writer's Apprentice Mysteries.

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

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