Thursday, October 15, 2020

Book Review: Murder Goes to Market by Daisy Bateman (Claudia Simcoe #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Claudia; strong mystery; humor; for me, the setting
Cons: Took a bit to get into the book
The Bottom Line:
Body in market
Freedom, livelihood on line
Grows into good book



To Market, to Market, to Find…A Corpse?

The instant Murder Goes to Market crossed my radar, I knew I had to read it.  Not only does it involve food, something I tend to gravitate to, but it is set in Sonoma County, California, the area where I grew up.  I’m definitely glad I read the book because I enjoyed it.

When Claudia Simcoe needed a change in her life, she moved up to San Elmo Bay, California.  She bought a large building and turned it into a market where local vendors can go to sell their wares.  While most of the tenants sell their locally made food, Claudia did rent out one space to Lori Roth, who sells bags and other merchandise.  Everything is going well until Claudia learned that Lori was buying her items online to resell instead of making them herself, forcing Claudia to terminate her lease.

Claudia is unprepared the next morning to find Lori’s dead body in the middle of the market.  Since Claudia was the last person to see Lori alive and they had fought, the police think Claudia makes a very good suspect.  With the market shut down until the case is solved, she has a double motive to figure out what really happened to Lori.  The problem is Lori was a very private person.  Can Claudia figure out what got Lori killed?

I’ll admit I did struggle a bit to get into the book.  The early chapters walk a fine line between giving us a data dump and starting the story.  Lori dies very early on, but I still thought we were getting exposition that helped set up the story, especially Claudia’s character.  The writing style also kept me at a distance.  I’m not saying it was poorly written, it just was in third person and kept me slightly outside the story.

However, by the time I hit page 50, I was fully hooked on the story.  Lori’s death was a very good puzzle.  Claudia’s sleuthing began to turn up more of Lori’s life, but I couldn’t figure out how any of it was going to play out.  The climax was perfectly logical but surprised me, and I loved how it wrapped everything up.

The further I got into the book, the better I felt I got to know Claudia as well.  She’s definitely a strong yet sympathetic character.  The rest of the cast could be a little stronger, but I’m sure that will come as the series progresses.  I certainly enjoyed what I saw of them here and want to spend more time with all of them.

Since the setting was a special draw for me, I have to comment on that as well.  I’ll admit, it’s been years since I spent any amount of time in the area of Sonoma County where the fictional San Elmo Bay is set, however, I had to smile as author Daisy Bateman was describing the setting and the weather.  It is obvious she knows the area and loves it, too.  And any reference to the real towns in the area also brought a smile to my face.  I love seeing places I know pop up in the books I read.

I also enjoyed the humor of the book.  Claudia has a sarcastic streak, which I loved.  There are also some lines of narration that were pretty funny.  This isn’t a laugh a page book, and some of it might be subtle, but for me it worked well.

I will definitely be back to visit Claudia and San Elmo Bay again.  Murder Goes to Market grew into a fun book, and I’m very glad I picked it up.

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