My rating: 4 of 5 stars to Vicki Delany‘s Elementary, She Read, the first in a new “Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery” series. I’ve read a few other books by this author, jumping at the chance to read this new series, as I really enjoy her ability to immerse you in the setting of a quaint and charming little town full of memorable characters. And it did not disappoint.
Gemma is a transplant from England, now residing in West London on Cape Cod in Massachusetts as part-owner of her uncle’s Sherlock Holmes bookshop and new friend’s traditional tea shop. When a busload of mystery loving grannies invade their stores, and a rare edition of a magazine turns up hiding on the bookshelves, Gemma knows something is not right. She tracks down one of the women, but finds her murdered in her hotel room. The police suspect Gemma, as her story of “Good Samaritan to return the magazine” cannot possibly be true. When she learns the woman was serving as a nurse in a very rich family of known Sherlock Holmes book collectors, the story gets even more puzzling. But it’s when another death puts her back in the spotlight that Gemma begins to worry she may be put in jail for a crime she had nothing to do with. Using her own highly-skilled research and investigation techniques, Gemma solves the case but almost goes down as one of the victims.
Includes a few side stories with her friend Jayne, her former boyfriend the cop and a few interesting neighborhood characters who either love her or hate her! Oh yeah, and her dog and cat who are quite a hoot.
I always enjoy the first in a new series… to see how the author introduces characters, builds a setting and invests in the themes and motifs which will guide the future books. Vicky Delany does not disappoint, as this one looks to be as strong as the “Year Round Christmas” series. Delany has a knack for creating vivid and personable characters. Sometimes you don’t really care for the character, but not because the character is poorly written — it’s always because she packs a punch in finding ways for you to hate people and love them at the same time. That’s how I felt about the new detective who showed up to crack the case. The woman must have a soft spot somewhere, but Gemma can’t find it. And I wanted to slap the cop on many occasions for her rude behavior. Good writing makes you feel that about someone in a story.
Sherlock Holmes has been done before. But this is done in a lighthearted way, such that it’s not over-the-top, rarely boring and usually well-integrated. You learn a little about Doyle, 19th century England and various other historical tidbits all the while enjoying the differences between American and Britain. Plus there are several goofy moments where you can picture the scene happening at some point in your own life. Might even make you want to become a Sherlock-follower yourself!
The book was consistent, just like all of the rest of Delany’s novels that I’ve read before. It’s a good read, full of great characters, but… I want to see Delany push it a little further next time and have a very complex mystery with more players about the town. Introduce more families, show more connections, bring a bit more of England to Massachusetts… Transport us somewhere different where we want to find ourselves lost in. We’re right on the cusp, and I’m betting book two in this series will do it.
Good plot. Fun characters. Clever writing. Everything you need in a basic murder mystery with a splash of something new and exciting. A definite read for fans of the author and genre, and a good intro to the cozy for those not ever having the pleasure of encountering one before. Plus… who doesn’t love a book about famous authors and detectives?
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
3 1/2 stars (rounded up to a 4) to Vicki Delany‘s Rest Ye Murdered Gentlemen, her debut novel in the “A Year-Round Christmas Mystery” series. Some people love Christmas so much that they need an entire book series dedicated to it; and if you’re one of those people, you’ll enjoy this one even if you’re reading it at Halloween!
Rudolph, New York, a small town on the southern shores of Lake Ontario near the Canadian border, was named for someone who turned out to be not-so-name-worthy in the end. The town mayor, Noel Wilkinson, suggests telling everyone it was named after the famous reindeer and thus, Christmastown is born — except, there are a few of these towns across the country and the neighboring towns aren’t always thrilled when their town is suddenly considered second rate. When a semi-famous writer stops in Rudolph to publish a piece in a widely-read magazine about all the wonders of the Christmas village, he quickly sets the town a buzz… but when he turns up dead after eating at a local restaurant, Rudolph gets a bad reputation. Was it a neighboring town hoping to steal the glory? Was it a current resident with a unknown grudge? Or was it a personal vendetta from some outsider that just happened to occur in Rudolph?
Merry Wilkinson and her family and friends of Christmas-loving lore are on the case so they can protect their income and their town from utter disaster. Along the way, we meet her opera-loving mother, Santa Clause double dad, best friend who is accused of the murder, two eligible bachelors for Merry to choose from, a former frenemy police officer, the newly transported Chicago detective, a quirky mayor, a bitter neighboring store owner, a rival-politician and the fun-loving staff of Merry’s high-end Christmas decor shop. With a few side-stories about each of the main character’s personal lives, a new series all about the wonderful world of Christmas is born. In the end, Merry solves the case and makes friends with the police so she’s ready to solve another one in the future.
For a debut novel, it gives a really well-rounded summary of the town and characters. For readers new to the cozy mystery genre, it will be the perfect intro. Characters and setting are clear and vivid. Multiple suspects for the whodunit. Several backstories dropped with different angles to continue on in the future. And if you’re a fan of holidays, this one will make you smile. I was slightly worred that the Christmas theme could be annoying (I love Christmas but an entire book series?); however, Delany offers a good balance of story and setting so you can tune out or in as much of the descriptions as you want.
There are a few holes in the story or pieces of the plot that should have been more tightly addressed. Merry doesn’t quite seem like someone who would give up her life in NYC and come back home just because of a situation with her boyfriend and job. I would have expected her to try to find other jobs in NYC but this whole area is covered a bit too quickly. When she does come back home, it seems like everyone just forgets she left Rudolph and everything picks back up again. I understand small town atmosphere, but I think a little more focus could have been added here.
There are a lot of mystery fiction books and authors to choose from, and once you settle into the cozy sub-genre, you still have a lot that could spark your interest. This one has a very clear theme that will either hook the audience or it will not. If you are a fan of holidays or Christmas or anything that comes with it, then you’ve got a good series to get started with. The author has just published the second in the series and I will be reading it later this week. Definitely worth continuining on…