Hello, hello! We’ve reached the last Wednesday in December (the last one of 2017). Can you believe that? And that means it’s time for my monthly book review. For December, I chose a cozy mystery (think along the lines of Murder She Wrote, only this heroine is a young librarian). I was looking for something light and fun this time, and A Murder for the Books by Victoria Gilbert, which was published on Dec. 22nd, popped up in my recommendations list on NetGalley. Yes, it’s another advanced reader copy (ARC), so I must thank the publisher, Crooked Lane Books, and NetGalley for giving me access to the ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Now, let’s get on with the actual review.
A Murder for the Books is the first in a new cozy series collectively known a the Blue Ridge Library Mysteries. It follows Amy Webber, who has moved in with her elderly aunt Lydia under the guise of taking care of Lydia (who doesn’t really need much in the way of help), but is actually fleeing her old life after making a public scene when she found out her long-term boyfriend had been cheating on her. She’s gone from being a librarian at a major university to being one at a small town public library. Plus, she’s self-conscious about her weight and wary of anyone who shows a romantic interest in her. Cue the entrance of Richard Muir who is a dance instructor at her old university and is new to her little town. He asks for some help researching an old murder and that’s when they stumble upon a fresh murder and things just get weirder from there.
After the last three ARCs I got turned out to be less than satisfying, I had very low hopes for this book. But I went into it with an open mind and, to my surprise, I liked it quite a bit. The characters were relatable (if somewhat over the top occasionally). And the plot was fun. It was a little predictable at points, but the main antagonist turned out to be a bit of a surprise. I figured they were somehow involved, but I didn’t think they’d actually do their own dirty work. So, it was fun.
That being said, I did have one major issue with the plot. Every time Amy painted herself into a seemingly inescapable corner, instead of finding a logical way out, the author employed a deus ex machina (plot device where something is magically cleared up by the intervention of something random). A book that’s been lost for years shows up even though they had done a complete inventory of the library earlier that year and no one had found it, another book randomly falls off a shelf at her house… twice, a shadow in the woods spooks the killer into running away, a gust of wind on an otherwise calm day knocks the killer off balance, etc. These things are explained away as the possible actions of a ghost, which would be fine if this were a paranormal series (I love ghost stories!). But it’s not. The whole prospect of ghosts doesn’t even come up until more than halfway through the book, so it feels like a lazy escape method from having to find logical alternatives.
Beyond that, the writing was good. There was a little too much focus on description. I didn’t really need to know what every house and garden Amy went in looked like in full detail. That made it drag a little bit in places. And there was a lot of hair twirling and similar actions that could’ve been left up to the reader’s imagination. But none of that detracted from the fun of the story itself, so I’ll let it slide.
Ultimately, I was satisfied with A Murder for the Books. It was interesting and fun enough that I’ll probably pick up the second book when it’s available. Hopefully, there won’t be as much deus ex machina in the second one.
Overall, I’d rate it 4 out of 5 stars. If you’re looking for something nice to snuggle up by the fire with, this one would be a good choice.