My rating: 4 of 5 stars
4 stars to Barbara Venkataraman‘s Death by Didgeridoo, her debut novel in the “Jamie Quinn Mystery” series about a lawyer who investigates murders while protecting her clients from all the trouble they encounter. I enjoyed reading this book, but it is a very short read to introduce you to the main characters, setting and background — definitely worth the read to give you a taste for what’s to come in the series.
When Jamie’s cousin Adam, a 22 year old with Asperger’s Syndrome, is accused of killing his music teacher with a didgeridoo (a musical instrument), his mother Peg calls Jamie for help. Jamie’s own mother passed away which is why Jamie feels more closely connected to her aunt and cousin as some of her only remaining family; however, Jamie is a family law practitioner, not a criminal lawyer. She uses her sharp wit, intelligence and connections to determine the potential real suspects and finds herself embroiled in a mystery of a music band where a number of members and their fan groupies may have been responsible. In the end, Jamie saves the day with help from her bestie Grace (a criminal lawyer) and PI Duke, who is also a former client of hers when he had his own womanizing ways!
The story is narrated in first person which gives the author valuable liberties with Jamie’s personality. Jamie can easily tell you what she’s seeing and thinking while also giving her opinion and stepping out of the story to make you laugh. There are a number of funny lines that quickly give you a sense of Jamie’s personality making you wish you had a friend just like her — especially when many are at her own expense. It’s just the right balance of humor/fun without causing any intrusion into the overall story. I enjoy cozies that can go that extra step but still keep everything moving along.
Having a lawyer as the protagonist (especially when the story is written by a lawyer) also helps with storyline potential — think of all the murders, court room dramas and legal proceedings you as a reader will get to experience. The author does a good job at not using too much legal-speak to make the read cumbersome which helps keep the story flowing along.
The murder, in traditional cozy format, happens off screen. There is very little focus on the description other than knowing about the blood and the weapon. For the most part, I think this is a good approach, as the reader has a lot to go on with his/her own imagination. I also like the ingenuity with the murder weapon as I think this may be the first time it’s ever been used in a book (reviewers note — I surprisingly have not read every book in the universe so I cannot be absolutely certain on this!).
It was too short and quick. I read this on my iPad Kindle program on a plane trip from Atlanta to NY and finished it in less than two hours (it’s about 100 pages). The story is good and has a definitely murder setup, multiple cast of suspects and a few side stories — it’s a direct path to solving the whodunit with a few red herrings along the way. I would have liked to see some additional details surrounding the different band members so that I could try to figure out which one may have been the culprit. It sometimes felt a little bit like it went too quickly to finding the actual killer, especially when a second victim shows up and the story is quicky solved. But I believe since this was a debut novel, it was done to get interest in the characters and setting and will expand more in future books.
This debut was a good example of humor in a cozy and will delight readers who like a strong female lead character with the right group of friends in the legal and police fields to help her solve the cases. This particular story had many different characters who could have been the killer and you clearly know from the beginning it couldn’t be the one suspect the police blamed. I’m looking forward to seeing a longer and more complex story in the next two books in the series. I’ve already downloaded them and will probably switch back and forth between a few series over the next couple of weeks. Nice debut work!