cozy novel

Review: Death by Didgeridoo

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Death by Didgeridoo
Death by Didgeridoo by Barbara Venkataraman

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.


Story

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!


Strengths

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!).


Suggestions

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.


Final Thoughts

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!

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Review: BED, BREAKFAST, and BONES: A Ravenwood Cove Cozy Mystery

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BED, BREAKFAST, and BONES: A Ravenwood Cove Cozy Mystery
BED, BREAKFAST, and BONES: A Ravenwood Cove Cozy Mystery by Carolyn L. Dean

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4 stars to Carolyn L. Dean‘s BED, BREAKFAST, and BONES: A Ravenwood Cove Cozy Mystery, the first in this series about Amanda Graham’s adventures in opening up a bed and breakfast on the coastal shores of Oregon.


Story

When Amanda Graham inherits an old bed and breakfast from her uncle who recently passed away, and she ends a relationship with a cheating boyfriend, a move from LA to a small sleepy town sounds exactly like what she needs. After arriving, she quickly learns it’s anything but sleepy. The new mayor has it out for her, the town won’t let her re-open the inn and a dead body turns up in her garden. After getting to know the various villagers, Amanda falls in love with Ravenwood Cove but she can’t afford to stay unless she can open the inn for business. She quickly finds her allies, determines who may be out to stop her and solves the mystery of who put the dead body in her garden. Along the way, she learns her uncle was not a well-liked man, and she has a mysterious neighbor who has something to hide…


Strengths

For a debut cozy, this story sets up a wonderful little town full of good characters and lots of potential for drama, conflict and depth. The various shop owners’ plights make you root for them to survive in a town where tourism is non-existent, but they have a hope for it to change. The history and relationships of all the villagers are intricate and appear to have some traction for future stories. Amanda’s immediate ties to the town are strong and give you a good sense of why she wants to make this new life work.

Often in cozies, the protagonist talks a lot about how (s)he has no experience in searching for the killer — almost to the point of it being too direct; however, in this series, even though it’s obvious she’s not trained in detective work, Amanda’s instinctual skills and talents kick in very naturally. I never questioned why she was searching for the killer because it just happened along the way in a very realistic manner. I liked this change in a cozy.

The introduction of her potential suitors went well — and I’m actually rooting for two men she has interacted with thus far – James and his brother Derek. It was only a small introduction, but fighting over 2 brothers would definitely be a good setup of trouble for the future.


Suggestions

I’d like to know more about her uncle and what happened to push him out of the town 8 years ago. I’m not sure if this was deliberately left open in book 1 to have a story to reveal in a future book or if this was just not anything of importance, but I found myself wanting a stronger and more immediate conclusion to this part.


Final Thoughts

This is the first book I’ve read by this author, and I definitely enjoyed it and will read another one soon. It has a lot of potential as a debut novel in this series, especially with likable characters, a strong background and setting to tell a story and a direct plot with some hidden clues and some guess-work. You can read it in a few hours one afternoon and walk away with a smile and a wish to visit your own sleepy little town. (But don’t go finding your own dead body!)

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