Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Book Review: A High-End Finish by Kate Carlisle (Fixer-Upper Mysteries #1)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Strong cast of main characters; eventful story
Cons: More a series of events than a true mystery
The Bottom Line:
Shannon as suspect
After attacker is killed
Events but weak plot

There’s Promise, but this Debut is a Fixer Upper

After watching the first Fixer Upper mystery movie on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries last month, I got a renewed interest in the books of Kate Carlisle.  I know I read her first one when it came out years ago, but I couldn’t remember why I’d never gone on to read more.  Still, I decided to jump into her Fixer Upper mystery series with the first book A High-End Finish.

This series features Shannon Hammer, a contractor in the small Northern California community of Lighthouse Cove.  She has taken over her father’s construction business and specializes in restoring old Victorians, something that is in abundance in this town.

Shannon is single, something that doesn’t sit right with her married friend, who is always trying to set her up on blind dates.  Shannon has finally agreed to one with Jerry Saxton, and dinner is very pleasant.  However, their after dinner walk on the beach turns horribly wrong when Jerry won’t take no for an answer.  Shannon is forced to defend herself, and she quickly gains fame in her town as a result of how she fended off the attack.

A couple of days later, Shannon stumbles over Jerry’s dead body in the basement of one of her construction sites.  Jerry has been bashed over the head with one of Shannon’s tools.  Given her recent public fight with the man, Shannon finds herself the police’s prime suspect.  But given Jerry’s history, there are plenty of other suspects in town.  Can Shannon build a case against one of them and clear her name?

I was well into this book before I realized why I was struggling with the plot.  I wanted to like it.  I mean, the murder victim is a complete jerk, which always creates plenty of great suspects.  There are plenty of mysterious things happening, and the case against Shannon gets stronger as the book goes along thanks to some good twists.  Heck, even Shannon admits that to a casual observer, she would look like the prime suspect, which was a refreshing admission.

But I realized my problem was that this book was just a series of mysterious events.  While we are introduced to a collection of good suspects, Shannon spends little time collecting clues or being distracted by red herrings.  Instead, she is constantly reacting to another event.  Don’t get me wrong, I was never bored.  But I like to learn some secrets along the way, and I felt like we weren’t really moving forward much, just reacting to the latest event.  The book does come to a suspenseful climax that logically wraps everything up.

It’s a shame I didn’t like the plot better because I love these characters.  Shannon is a strong character, and she’s got a wonderful group of friends since she grew up in this town.  There is a hint of a love triangle in this book, although I think I can already tell which way that is going to go.  Both men are certain good characters as well.  Because we spent so little time with the suspects, they are on the thin side, unfortunately.

Maybe this was why I hadn’t gone back to read more of Kate’s books before now.  I can certainly see why she has a following because there are elements of A High-End Finish that I enjoyed.  Unfortunately, it winds up just being average overall.


  1. This does sound promising. Maybe the next book will give you more mystery.

  2. I have the first few books in this series but haven't read them yet. I do really like her bibliophile series quite a bit and it sounds like it's better written than this series. Hopefully this is just growing pains since it's the first book in the series.