Monday, June 19, 2017

No Charm Intended (A Cora Crafts Mystery)

Author:  Mollie Cox Bryan
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Ebook
ISBN #:  9781496704665
Kensington Publishing
320 Pages
$7.99; $5.99 Amazon
April 25, 1017


Settling into her new life and and career in small-town Indigo Gap, North Carolina, Cora Chevalier is preparing to host a “wildcrafting” retreat at her Victorian home. But a specter hangs over the venture when beloved local nanny Gracie Wyke goes missing. Amidst leading their guests in nature hikes, rock painting and making clay charms, Cora and her business partner, Jane, team up with Gracie’s boyfriend, Paul, to launch their own investigation into her disappearance when the local police prove unhelpful.

Cora and her crafters take Paul in, believing he is in danger and not the suspect police have made him out to be. However as they uncover new clues and a body turns up at a local abandoned amusement park, Cora and Jane begin to question their decision. With more questions than answers arising, is Cora crafty enough to untangle a knot that could put an innocent in jail—and permanently destroy her reputation?


Cora Chevalier is the owner of Kildare House, an historic home in the small town of Indigo Gap, North Carolina.  She moved there after her previous life working in a women's shelter in Pittsburgh sent her into a downward spiral that she's still recovering from.  Also with her is her best friend Jane Starr, a potter whom, along with her daughter London live in the carriage house on the property. 

Cora has turned Kildare House into a place where she holds crafting retreats, and the latest is a "wildcrafting" retreat where the guests are going to learn to use nature to make beautiful items they can be proud of both creating themselves and owning (or gifting).  

But then there's a hitch:  First, Cora receives a message on her phone that reads "I kidnapped her" but discounts it at first as a prank until she finds out others received the same message.  Then Jane's babysitter, Gracie Wyke, goes missing; her boyfriend Paul and his friend Henry show up, hoping that she might have said something to Jane which will give him a clue as to her whereabouts by retracing her final steps, but no such luck.  Shortly after their visit, Henry goes missing and Cora, feeling sorry for the distraught Paul, offers to let him stay for awhile.  Even though Jane is against it, there isn't anything she can say, so she lets it go.  But not too long after, it's discovered that Henry has been murdered, and Paul becomes a suspect in the crime.

When Cora and Jane begin investigating (against the wishes of the local police) they find that all three college students were playing a computer game called The Wizard of Oz.  But this is no kids' game, and somewhere along the line it may have turned deadly.

Although I did enjoy this book more than the first one of the series, I didn't enjoy the fact that it was intimated depression is dangerous.  At one point Jane practically goes ballistic, noting that if she knew Gracie was depressed, she never would have hired her as a babysitter.  Why?  (You can recover from depression and never suffer from it again).  I also wondered why she would have told her five-year-old daughter that her babysitter had been kidnapped.  Who has that conversation with their young child?  And then repeats it in front of her, and doesn't even think she's the reason her daughter is having nightmares!  

Both women seemingly made a big deal of Gracie's depression; yet you have two deeply damaged protagonists - Cora's stress/anxiety and Jane's bad relationships leaving her with the inability to trust men - who aren't seeking therapy of their own to deal with it.  Trust me, just moving to a new town and starting over isn't going to fix their problems, or get them on the road to their own mental health recovery.

There was some nice interaction between the crafters this time out, and I enjoyed the "crossover" of characters from Ms. Bryan's other Cumberland Creek scrapbooking series, which was a lot of fun.  The book was interesting enough to keep me reading throughout the night, and it's a light, easy read with a decent plot regarding the DarkNet (it's explained a little in the book for those who don't know much about it).

In the end, I didn't feel that there was any strong motive for the antagonist to commit kidnapping/murder.  I would have liked to have had this person be a bigger part of the story so that we could have actually gotten to know a little bit about them (understand their reasoning, etc), but as it were, that seemed to be seriously lacking, in my opinion.  However, I'm not ready to give up on the characters yet; perhaps in the third book we'll see the ladies come into their own a little bit more and finally take charge of their lives.  Recommended.

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