Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Book Review: Murder on Memory Lake by J. D. Griffo (Ferrara Family Mysteries #1)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Strong, fun characters, good mystery
Cons: Overwritten
The Bottom Line:
Body in the lake
Family team up to solve
Average debut

Tranquility Shattered by Murder

I’m always on the lookout for something different in the cozy genre.  When I heard about the Ferrara Family Mysteries, they sounded like they’d fit that since the series focuses on a multi-generational family solving murders together. Sadly, Murder on Memory Lake didn’t live up to my expectations.

Alberta Scaglione was shocked to find out that her recently departed aunt left her very wealthy, including a cabin on Memory Lake in Tranquility, New Jersey.  She’s even happier when her granddaughter, Jinx, shows up wanting back in her life.  Alberta and Jinx’s mother, Alberta’s daughter, stopped speaking years ago, so this is a happy family reunion.

However, Alberta’s new life takes a grim detour when she spots a body floating in the lake one morning.  Even worse, she recognizes the person as her childhood nemesis.  When Alberta realizes it was murder, Jinx wants to use it to transition to hard news in her job for the local paper.  But that would mean solving the case themselves.  Can they do it?

I suspected something was going to be wrong from the first chapter.  In fact, the first two chapters give us background on Alberta and Jinx.  Yes, we needed some of that, but it could have been better worked into the book as we needed it instead of giving it to us as a data dump.

Once we got past these first couple of chapters, things did improve.  Alberta and Jinx take some risks to solve the case, but I am very forgiving of that kind of thing.  They follow a logical trail of clues to reach a satisfying climax.  Of course, they get sidetracked a time or two by the red herrings that cross their path, but those prove to be fun distractions along the way.

Also fun are the characters.  Alberta and Jinx are joined in their sleuthing by Alberta’s sister and sister-in-law.  These four women are lively and provide some laughs along the way.  The rest of the cast are strong as well, and helped pull me into the story.

This story is told with an omniscient narrator.  This is an unusual choice for a mystery novel, especially a cozy.  I found it worked, and it only took me a few pages to get used to the style.  We mostly stick with Alberta and Jinx, which certainly helps.  Unfortunately, it also makes frequent passages from the characters as they think through life possible.  These were hard for me to wade through; they would have been more at home in a literary novel.  The result felt like a book that was overwritten.

Alberta and Jinx both love to cook, so we’ve got a few recipes at the end of the book.  There are some traditional recipes and then healthier alternatives.

This is one of those books that is hard to review.  It’s got flaws, but it also has parts that are very enjoyable.  If Murder on Memory Lake has already caught your attention, give it a try and see what you think for yourself.

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