Howdy, howdy! It’s already the last Wednesday of September. Where did the month go? For that matter, where did all the months since March go? My internal clock is kind of lagging. Anyway, it’s the last Wednesday and that means it’s book review time! I decided to go back to a cozy mystery this time, because I wanted something with a guaranteed happy ending. So, I requested Last Pen Standing, the first in a brand new series by Vivian Conroy. It was released yesterday (Sept. 24th). As usual, I must thank NetGalley and the publisher, Poisoned Pen Press, for allowing me access to an Advance Reader Copy (ARC) in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Let’s get to it!
Last Pen Standing follows Delta Douglas as she embarks on a new chapter in her life. Delta’s grandmother gifts her a large sum of money because she wants to see what Delta will achieve with it instead of waiting and passing it on as an inheritance. So, Delta quits her big city job and becomes co-owners of a stationery store in a small town with her college bestie, Hazel. During their first workshop event at the town’s fanciest hotel, one of the hotel guests is murdered. Hazel’s brother, Finn, is accused and everything kind of spirals from there. Delta didn’t expect to be using her creative skills to help solve a murder, but things don’t always go the way you want. With the help of her new friend, Jonas (an ex-cop), his dog, Spud, and the Paper Posse (the local gossips and crafters), Delta tries her best to figure out what’s going on.
I have to admit that I didn’t pinpoint the correct suspect right away. I had the person in my list of probable suspects, but I wasn’t positive until I got closer to the end. That made the story all the more fun, because I was able to eliminate suspects right alongside Delta and the others. The plot was full of twists and turns. I really liked the slow build of tension and the subtle clues sprinkled throughout. It was just paced really nicely. I wasn’t absorbed enough that I had trouble putting it down in order to eat and sleep and work, but I also looked forward to picking it back up again. That’s the kind of balance I enjoy with cozies.
As far as the characters go, I loved them. Delta was an interesting and likeable lead. She rarely came across as pushy or bratty like some cozy leads can. She left a lot of the snooping to the town gossips and only pried into things when she was relatively sure there was something useful to be discovered. The love interest, Jonas, was a nice foil. He helped Delta proceed with her investigation and made sure everything she did was above board. Being an ex-cop gave him access to more information than usual, so I suppose that’s why Delta didn’t have to pry as much as some cozy leads. Even the rich people came across as mostly human. It was nice.
The writing was done well for the most part. My only complaint would be that a lot of the dialogue was stilted. “People don’t talk like that” was my mantra as I went through this book. It was like the author wanted to give the reader a bunch of information and couldn’t find a better way of doing it than having people say it. But people don’t say things like that, especially if they think their listener knows what they’re talking about. Like, the stationery shop is across the street from the diner. She works at the shop, so she knows where the diner is. Don’t have the woman she’s talking to say to meet her at *insert name of diner*, the diner across the street from where you’ve been every day this week. It’s not realistic.
Ultimately, I really enjoyed Last Pen Standing. I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for future books and maybe even try something else by Vivian Conroy.
Overall, I gave it 4 out of 5 stars. The dialogue is annoying enough that I took a star off, but if you like cozies and stationery and western type stuff, you should pick this book up.