Thursday, July 2, 2020

Book Review: No Saving Throw by Kristin McFarland (Ten Again Mysteries #1)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters and plot
Cons: Autumn’s language
The Bottom Line:
Gaming store murder
Autumn must solve to save store
Delightful debut

Save a Place for This Debut

A while back, I was browsing at Barnes and Nobel, and I stumbled upon No Saving Throw.  I hadn’t heard of the book, and reading about it made it sound like fun, so I decided to give it a try.

Autumn is happy running Ten Again, the gaming store she owns in the small Wisconsin college town where she grew up.  In addition to weekend tournaments, she also hosts events for role players, and they often expand out into the small mall where the store is located in order to fully act out their story.

Things are going well until one of the regular gamers in the store dies in the mall.  Things quickly turn on Autumn and the rest of the gamers, with some of them in particular in the police’s spotlight.  But Autumn doesn’t think her gamers, who have become her friends, could really be killers.  Can she prove it?

I’m not a gamer, well in the sense talked about here.  Still, the idea was just quirky enough to appeal to me.  There are lots of references to geeky shows.  I suspect most are mainstream enough to be recognized by everyone, but it wouldn’t surprise me to find out there were some I didn’t catch.  Still, these are the fun Easter eggs in the book and if you miss one or two, it won’t matter.

The heart of the book is a great murder mystery.  As Autumn investigates, more events happen to discourage her.  I enjoyed seeing how everything played out.  I found the ending surprising and extremely suspenseful.

The characters are great.  Autumn really has created a community with her store, and you can tell how much the characters care about each other.  Autumn herself keeps debating the wisdom of being involved in the investigation, but something always pulls her back in.  I found this very realistic, and enjoyed it for a change of pace since so many of the books I read feature characters who charge ahead no matter the consequences.

This book is a typical cozy except for one thing – the language.  Autumn makes quite a few contributions to the shop’s swear jar over the course of the book.  It’s a little jarring for someone used to not having any foul language in the books he picks up, but it’s worth noting mostly in passing.

Overall, this is a strong debut, so I’m glad I picked up No Saving Throw.  Sadly, I’m not seeing any signs of a sequel yet, but I’m definitely hoping we get to visit Autumn again.

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