Cozy Mystery Review: The Advice Column Murders
Yup, it's another great cozy on tour!
Title: The Advice Column Murders
Author: Leslie Nagel
Publisher: Alibi, 2018. 250 pages
Source: Great Escapes Book Tours electronic ARC
What’s the couple next door really hiding? Vintage fashionista and amateur sleuth Charley Carpenter finds out in this engrossing cozy mystery from the USA Today bestselling author of The Book Club Murders.
In a small town like Oakwood, Ohio, everyone knows everyone else’s business—except for Charley Carpenter’s standoffish new neighbors, who tend to keep to themselves. But behind closed doors, Paxton Sharpe’s habit of screaming bloody murder at all hours of the day keeps Charley awake all night. Coupled with the stress of the increasingly delayed expansion of her shop, Old Hat Vintage Fashions, the insomnia is driving Charley crazy. Her only distraction? The local paper’s irreverent new advice column, “Ask Jackie.”
Jackie’s biting commentary usually leaves Charley and her employees rolling on the floor, but her latest column is no laughing matter. An oddly phrased query hinting at a child in peril immediately puts Charley on high alert. After arriving home to a bloodcurdling scream next door, she follows the noise into the basement and makes a grisly discovery: the body of Judith Sharpe’s adult daughter.
With Detective Marcus Trenault off in Chicago, Charley decides to take matters into her own hands. Convinced that the murder is connected to the desperate plea for help in “Ask Jackie,” she embarks on a twisted investigation that has her keeping up with the Sharpes—before a killer strikes again.
This was a sharp read, with a compelling mystery and a lot of interesting human dynamics. I admit that I was a little lost at times with all the characters, though--I felt that I might have done better to have read the first two books in the series first, or maybe I just needed a paper copy so I could flip back to see who people were.
Despite that flaw (or was the challenge due to my tired brain?), I was immediately grabbed by the story and read it through very quickly, in a hurry to see what came next. The hint that a child is in danger definitely adds to the sense of urgency in the book, and as each turn of events reveals more secrets of the Sharpe family it becomes hard to pick which person you prefer to be guilty. A police detective who is ripe for hating adds the frosting on the cake (I wouldn't have minded pinning the murder on him!), and gives the perfect excuse for Charley and her pals to investigate on their own.
The love interest progresses with some tension and conflict, but no unnecessary drama. The issues Charley has to work through are believable, though again I felt that perhaps I had missed something that I'd know if I'd read the other books. I thought the romance/mystery balance was about right (as regular readers will know, that means there is more mystery than romance, and as noted, no drama that could be fixed by simply being honest) (in the relationship, I mean. The mystery is riddled with people lying all over the place, which is good).
The final reveal was a surprise, and fairly dramatic, but did run to a little too much talk. And the author definitely withheld some of the steps along the way so that the reader could be surprised, which made me feel just a hair cheated. Still, it wasn't enough to turn me off, and I enjoyed the book enough to want to go back and start at the beginning of the series.
A good modern village cozy--a small town (or small city, really) mystery with lots of interconnected characters. I recommend this if you like your mysteries intricate and light to moderate on romance (the boyfriend is unquestionably a hunk. That is not a bad thing).
Leslie Nagel is a writer and teacher of writing at a local community college. Her debut novel, “The Book Club Murders”, is the first in the Oakwood Mystery Series. Leslie lives in the all too real city of Oakwood, Ohio, where murders are rare but great stories lie thick on the ground. After the written word, her passions include her husband, her son, and daughter, hiking, tennis and strong black coffee, not necessarily in that order.
Website – http://www.leslienagel.com/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/LeslieNagelAuthor/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/@leslie_nagel
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/leslie_nagel/
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FTC Disclosure: I received an ARC of The Advice Column Murders though Great Escapes Free Book Tours, and received nothing further from the writer or publisher in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."