Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Death at a Fixer-Upper (A Home Sweet Home Mystery)

Author:  Sarah T. Hobart
Genre:  Mystery

Alibi Publishing
255 Pages
$2.99 Amazon
May 17, 2016

Two Stars

Newly armed with her real estate license, Sam Turner loves Arlinda, her quirky seaside hometown in Northern California.  But life by the beach isn't exactly a breeze:  She and her teenage son, Max, are being evicted from their apartment, her long absent ex-husband unexpectedly resurfaces, and her possibly romantic relationship with sexy Chief of Police Bernie Aguilar is, well...complicated.  All Sam wants is a quick and easy sale.  What she gets instead is a killer headache - or three.

Sam's trying to drum up interest in 13 Aster Lane, a rambling Victorian fixer-upper that's more than a little neglected - and possibly haunted - so when a trio of offers arrive out of the blue, she can't help thinking it's too good to be true.  But after a new client drops dead on the property, she fears she's lost more than a commission.  Before Sam's out of house and home, she must unmask a killer targeting her clients, or the only property she'll be moving will be plots - at the local cemetery.


The book starts off with Sam Turner, new real estate agent, getting ready to do a walk-through on a home that's been in disrepair for years, joined by Biddie, a seasoned co-worker.  The front door is boarded up, as are most of the windows, and they must enter through the back.  There is a tenant in the house, the ex-nurse of the man who lived there, so I wondered: why the boards?  (I mean, there's the back entrance, but if there was a kitchen fire, well..you get the drift).  This question wasn't answered until fairly late in the book, but I felt we should have known long before then.

Anyway, Biddie apparently sees something that isn't there, mutters about blood and roses, and passes out.  But Sam sees nothing, and when Biddie awakens, they leave.  When she arrives back at her office there are three offers on the dilapidated mansion, which surprises her.  Later on, when one of the people who made an offer is found dead on the unkempt grounds of the home, the chase is on for a killer...

I felt that this book could have been oh-so-good if there were less detail paid to things that really didn't matter (why all the attention on the kinetic race?  What was pertinent in that could have been said in a page instead of all the detail on things that had nothing to do with the murder).  As it were, because of this, we didn't get to know any of the characters:  there was really no depth to any of them, not even Sam.  Also, it seemed to me that there were a lot of people who were used as "plot lines"; people who show up in the book who become part of a plot - Gail, Biddie, etc., but we never see nor hear anything about them again - and they don't have a whole lot to do with the plot, anyway.  All we do know about Sam is that she has a short fuse (her reactions to a stranger in town who shows up a little later in the book for no reason at all).  Even her ex-husband only makes a quick cameo appearance, and that's to add to the plot, and then he disappears from the book again.  The characters aren't engaging, and they must be in order to create a series that you want to read.

There were other things that bothered me:  Why has she been living in a dump? What has she been doing for a living previously to try and give her son a better place to live?  She doesn't spend a lot of time trying to get clients, or even working, and she comes off as having no ambition whatsoever (which would explain the above questions somewhat).  There's also the fact that she's a real estate agent who doesn't like people.  Say what?  Why would you go into a people-oriented profession if you didn't like them?  That's like being a veterinary assistant but not liking animals.  It doesn't make any sense - like a lot of this book.

Bernie, her love interest, is her sister's ex-husband, and she wants to sleep with him...which, unfortunately, gave me an 'ick' factor.  Did she want to sleep with him when he was married to her sister?  (Yes, another 'ick).  It will certainly make future books interesting.  Not to mention the fact of what will Max call him?  Uncle Bernie?  Dad?

When we finally find out who the killer is, and why, we realize there have been no clues to the identity, because, like many of the others, the person wasn't in the book enough to really give us any.  I felt that if there less description of things that didn't matter then perhaps more could have been given to character development, and it would have made for a much better book in the end.


Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1668578893

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