Friday, September 11, 2020

Book Review: Death on Demand by Carolyn Hart (Death on Demand #1)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Annie, Max, setting, mystery
Cons: Suspects could have been stronger overall, foul language
The Bottom Line:
Mystery bookstore
Is setting for mystery
Popular series

Crime Writer Murdered

Over the years, I’ve read some of Carolyn Hart’s books, but I have never read any of her most popular series, which also happens to be a popular cozy series in general.  I decided it was time I fixed that by going back to the beginning with Death on Demand.

This book introduces us to Broward’s Rock, an island off the coast of South Carolina.  Annie Lawrence has just inherited Death on Demand, a mystery bookshop on the island, from her uncle.  A group of mystery writers have been meeting there every Sunday night, and Annie gladly continues to welcome them to the store.

However, this particular Sunday things don’t go well.  Last week, Elliot Morgan, one of the authors, teased that he was going to spill secrets about everyone else in the group.  This week, someone kills him during the meeting before he can do that, and Annie lands in the position of chief suspect.  Maybe it’s a good thing that her not-quite-ex, Max Darling, has arrived on the island.  Can they solve the crime together?

This series is best known for the many, many references to other authors and detectives that are worked into each book.  This book sold me right away when the first literary reference was to Mrs. Pollifax.  As a huge fan of that series, I couldn’t help but smile.  Yes, a few times the references did seem to get out of hand, but for the most part I enjoyed them.

The mystery itself is quite a puzzle.  Not only does Annie need to figure out who done it, but she needs to figure out how done it.  Both of those puzzles kept me engaged and the solution was satisfying.

The suspects could have been a bit stronger.  Honestly, I had a bit of a hard time keeping them straight early on.  While that did get better as the book progressed, they were never fully fleshed out.

On the other hand, I loved Annie and Max.  They are great characters individually, and together they are fantastic.  With them as the lead characters, it’s easy to see why this series has been so popular.

The setting helps, too.  After all, what mystery lover isn’t going to want to read a book with so much talk about other mysteries.  It’s great.  And, while I tend to picture Broward’s Rock as, well, a rock, the actual island sounds like a fantastic vacation location.  I’d visit in real life if I could, so I look forward to escaping into more books in the series.

This book originally came out in 1987.  As you’d expect, elements of it are a little dated now since technology has advanced so much.  Adjust your expectations accordingly, and you’ll be fine.

There are more swear words of just about every variety than in a typical cozy.  I do wish that element had been left out.

I listened to the audio version narrated by Kate Reading.  She did a great job at making the story and characters come to life for us.

Now that I’ve finally entered Death on Demand, you can bet I will revisit this store.  I can't wait to see where Annie and Max go from this strong debut.

Plot your return visit with the rest of the Death on Demand series.

This review is part of this week's Friday's Forgotten Books.


  1. I love discovering older series. This sounds like a good one!

  2. Carolyn Hart is one of the prolific authors whose books I have not done justice too! I'm actually reading one of her books in another series right now (the Bailey Ruth series - Bailey is a ghost) and enjoying it though it's a touch silly.