Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A Killer's Guide to Good Works (A Val Cameron Mystery Book 2)

Author:  Shelley Costa
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Paperback; Ebook
ISBN #:  9781635110645; 9781635110616
Henery Press
272 Pages
$31.95; $15.95; $2.99 Amazon
September 20, 2016

Four Stars

Senior Editor Val Cameron is back at her desk in New York.  When her curator best friend returns from an abbey in England, she invites Val to see a priceless relic that has mysteriously found its way into her carry-on.  But by the time Val arrives at the museum, her friend has been murdered - and the relic is gone.  Val soon learns that a young monk at the abbey has also been murdered.  Is there a single killer at work?  What dark purpose is attached to the relic that's led to two murders?  When Val discovers her apartment has been broken into, her native New York feels like a place she no longer knows.  Now she has to unmask a killer who will stop at nothing to fulfill an ambitious plan - and Val Cameron is just the latest person to stand in the way.


Val Cameron, New York book editor, receives a call one morning from her best friend Adrian Bale, saying she has something exciting to show Val - something she inadvertently picked up on a recent visit to England.  But when Val is able to make it over to Adrian's place of work, she finds the area taped off by the police.  It isn't long before she discovers that Adrian is dead, shot shortly after making her call to Val.  Stunned, she can't figure out who would want to kill Adrian and why.

Soon Adrian's brother Antony arrives in the United States, and Val is reluctant to meet with him.  Antony is a monk who lives in England, and Val's not particularly religious, so she's been able to avoid meeting him so far, but no more.  She is, however, surprised to find he's nothing at all like what she thought he might be, and finds herself spending time with him, not only because of Adrian, but because there's been another murder in England, one that could possibly be connected to Adrian's 'stowaway.'

Val's also dealing with a new writer, James Killian, who has a handsome face and charming style, but has a book she'd rather not publish; however, this too is an unavoidable situation, and although physically drawn to him, she manages to keep her feelings in check.

Then there's her Aunt Greta, who works for the Artifact Authentication Agency, and has asked her help with an ancient artifact, and it's not long before Val begins to suspect that the situations she's been thrust into are all connected in some way, and the killer might just have her as the next target...

While for the most part I enjoyed reading the book, I have mixed feelings about it.  This is the second book in the series (the first being Practical Sins for Cold Climates).  None of the characters - except Val (and Ivy) - are carried over into this book, which seemed odd.  This means that if you've invested any time in getting to know and/or like any of the characters from book one, you're out of luck.   For my part, I believe that in a series there should be more than one person carried from one book to the next, or it becomes "The Adventures of..."

I also thought there was just too much unnecessary detail.  There was so much written about the satire, the crown, etc., for so many pages it just got tedious and slogged down the book.  (It's like reading a Dan Brown book - if you like his works, you will probably like this).  Yet we never learn much about the cult or the high council, or given any reasons as to why anyone would be drawn into it.  I wasn't really drawn to Greta; in fact, there was nothing to be drawn to.  She didn't have much of a personality and there wasn't anything about her that would make me want to spend time with her.  I did, however, enjoy the character of Tali, who was wise beyond her years.

Any of this notwithstanding, the book was well-written with the plot quite nicely thought out, giving the reader a story that combines fact with fiction, and the choice to believe if anything they have read has the possibility of being the truth.  I usually follow the rule of three, wherein I will read three books in a series before passing judgment, so hopefully the next one will make it all come together.  Recommended.

More on Shelley Costa's books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/c/shelley-costa/

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