Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Book Review: The Subject of Malice by Cynthia Kuhn (Lila Maclean #4)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Engrossing mystery; well-developed characters
Cons: Some might question Lila’s semi-official involvement in the case
The Bottom Line:
Conference murder
With academic motive
Page turning story

A Study in Malice

It has become obvious to me that you can find motives for murder anywhere.  Just look at the wide range of settings and hooks I read in my various mystery series.  Academic conferences prove to be deadly in The Subject of Malice, the newest Lila Maclean mystery from Cynthia Kuhn.

Lila has been helping put together an academic conference at the Tattered Star Ranch not too far from her home in Colorado.  She has a full agenda between attending panels, presenting at her own panel, and attempting to make some professional contacts, including rubbing elbows with the academic press that has agreed to publish her book on Isabella Dare.  Unfortunately, her nemesis, Simone, is also attending the conference with her equally evil twin sister Selene, and the conference has hardly started when they drop a bombshell on Lila.

However, they aren’t the only ones with surprises at the conference, including an appearance by an English professor turned mega bestselling author.  While the crowd is buzzing about his unexpected turn as the keynote speaker, someone is murdered.  Because Lila is familiar with the academic world and the players in the case, Lila’s boyfriend, homicide detective Lex Archer, asks her to keep her eyes open and sit in on a few interviews.  Lila, already curious about what is happening, is happy to assist in any way she can.  Will they find the killer before the conference ends?

Yes, I can see people having issues with Lila being asked to sit in and provide feedback on parts of the investigation.  A part of my mind was questioning whether that would actually happen or not.  However, I was having so much fun that I truly didn’t care.

This book has lots of malice for Lila to shift through before she can reach the climax.  There are motives for murder and issues in her personal life that kept me reading as quickly as I could.  I never wanted to put the book down, and each twist just made me want to read even faster, if that were possible.  The climax wraps things up well.

The characters were just as strong as the story.  Lila has always been a sympathetic main character, and that hasn’t changed here.  She even weathers some twists in her personal life.  We don’t get to see all the regular supporting characters, but I enjoyed seeing the ones that were part of the book.  We certainly see a different side of Simone before the book is over, which was much needed.  I’ll be interested to see how that relationship progresses in the next in the series.  The new characters are a charming bunch; it’s hard to picture one of them as the killer until Lila figures things out.

And I found the setting fun.  While it is close to home for Lila, most of the book takes place at a former movie location set turned into a resort, which fits perfectly with the mystery and gothic literature theme to this particular conference.  I completely enjoyed everything about it.

The Subject of Malice is the strongest book in this series to date.  After having read it, I must give it a grade of A+.

Need the prerequisites?  Here are the rest of the Lila Maclean Mysteries in order.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

I am reviewing this book as part of a blog tour.  Please check out the other stops here and enter the tour wide giveaway below in the Rafflecopter.

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  1. Thank you so much, Mark, for taking the time to read and to write such a thoughtful review! So thrilled that you enjoyed.

  2. Looking forward to reading this one.

  3. Calvin and Chris, thanks so much for stopping by--and for the kind comments!