3+ stars to Barbara Venkataraman‘s The Case of the Killer Divorce, her second novella in the “Jamie Quinn Mystery” e-book series. It fell a little short of a 4 because it’s not quite a traditional cozy mystery or romance mystery given there’s very little romance and a small cast of characters involved in the murder. But it had some good fun, quirky characters and sharp dialogue so it was better than a 3 in my world. (I rarely give out a 5 just to set the scale).
Jamie’s a family law attorney who took off a couple of years when her mother passed away. In the first book in the series, she’s thrust into a criminal case to save her cousin, but in this second book, she’s helping her client Becca get through what seems like a rough divorce from her husband Joe — that is, until Joe turns up dead from an overdose of Becca’s sleeping pills hidden in a Tylenol bottle. Did Joe accidentally kill himself? Was it Becca hoping to ensure she retained fully custody of their children? Or was it Becca’s new boyfriend (and previously a good friend of Joe’s) trying to get the ex out of the picture?
In this short novella, readers experience drama both in and out of the courtroom with this case, including Jamie’s budding friendships with the DA Nick and PI Duke. Throw in her Aunt Peg and her criminal lawyer best friend Grace and Jamie’s got tons of folks to help her get through her re-acclimation to the legal world. But in this book, we learn Jamie never knew her father and is looking to find out more about him. When she stumbles upon a few leads, and a gift from her late mother, Jamie’s world begins to turn upside down as she embraces all sorts of change in her life.
For a novella, there is a lot of action and multiple side-stories packed into the plot. It’s quick-paced and you’ll find yourself enjoying the read in about 60 to 90 minutes — perfect for when you can’t fall asleep quickly but are afraid to start an entire new 300 page novel that threatens to keep you awake all night! The characters are funny and the easy dialogue makes you feel like you’re talking to or reading about a friend. It’s simple and straightforward without any fluffy language that attempts to send you off into complex literary bliss — which is a good thing when you just want a fun little mystery to solve.
I am not sure I’d call it a mystery though! There is certainly an element of “who killed Joe” and “will Jamie find her father” but if you’re a traditional cozy mystery buff, this may seem out of character. It’s still a good story, but doesn’t have a cast of 5 or 6 characters who could be the killer, and you don’t get a lot of clues to try to figure it out yourself. I’d like to see maybe one more potential suspect to build up a little more suspense and reader involvement in the story (but that’s just me!).
I enjoy the series. It’s fun and easy to read. Jamie seems very real and Duke is a blast. I can hear his accent and see him parading around whenever he’s in a scene. I look forward to watching this series build and grow into a more substantial story.