Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Played by the Book (A Novel Idea Mystery Book 4)

Author:  Lucy Arlington
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback, Digital Book
ISBN #:  9780425276631
Berkley Publishing
320 Pages
$7.99; $7.99 Amazon
February 13, 2015


The owner of the Novel Idea Literary Agency is thrilled when former local boy and popular television show host Damian York returns to Inspiration Valley, North Carolina, to launch his new gardening book.  But Lila is less than excited about the hubbub when she sees her mounting to-do list.  Between planning York's gala and sprucing up her yard for another event, she's spread too thin - especially after she finds a skull buried in her flower beds.

As Lila's macabre discovery leads to other secrets hidden in Inspiration Valley's past, a member of the local garden club is found slumped over her prize roses - murdered.  Now it's up to Lila to dig through old mysteries and new clues to unearth a murderer before someone else is found pushing up daisies...


When Lila Wilkins is told by her boss that she's going to be part of the garden walk during Inspiration Valley's Annual Garden Walk, there isn't a lot she can do.  But when she sets about pulling up Hawthorn bushes she comes across a skull in the garden.  She immediately calls her boyfriend Sean, who's a police detective, and they cordon off the area until they know more about it.  When it's discovered that the rest of the skeleton lies there also, it becomes a crime scene, and she's out of the running.

But not too much later one of the others on the garden walk is found dead in her home, and the police also have to deal with a murder.  Lila is suspicious of the president of the garden club, for the woman is a nasty piece of work, but her co-worker Vicky insists it's the woman's step-son, since he hated her.  Either way, there's another killer on the loose and Vicky wants Lila to find out who it is.  But in doing so, will Lila put herself - or her family - in harm's way, or will she find a murderer in time?

I should have known this wasn't going to be a stellar book when this book is about gardening but Lila has no clue what plant is in her office.  A Rhododendron is not like an ivy, and it doesn't grow like one; you certainly can't put it up above a cabinet.  I think she's mistaking Philodendron for Rhododendron - and I'm surprised no one has commented on this.  But anyway...

It only took four books to finally make Sean a homicide detective, although he was investigating murders from book one.  I guess in this town it's not a big deal if a patrol officer investigates.  Also, the author(s) can't figure out the name of the realty company:  in two books it's "Sherlock Homes" and in two books it's "Sherlock Holmes".  So which is it?  Homes or Holmes?  I guess the next book casts the deciding vote.  Also, why is Althea the only person in town to talk like a hillbilly?  Is she the only true native and everyone else moved there?  She can't even get her accent straight - she went from saying "lordy" to "lawdy" in this book; and "shug" in the last book to "sug" in this book - either the authors and/or editors aren't doing their jobs.

As I mentioned in my last review of this series, this town is so perfect it should be renamed 'Happy Valley' because everyone is just so nice (except the suspects, of course) and nearly no one has a bad attitude (Vicky the Viper is the only one I can think of - she's just unlikable as a character); but now, everyone can also write!  Both Jay and Makalya are getting book deals!  This town must be quite a ways away, because it's sure far from reality.  It’s bad enough the characters are practically cardboard - you never get a sense of even caring what happens to any of them - but they’re all extremely talented, literary-wise?  Pretty soon the people in this agency will be writing their own novels and sending them to publishers (FYI, this is not realistic for a literary agency, but I guess it’s not really supposed to be).  Plus, I don’t understand how Lila keeps her job since she’s never there.  

You don’t even has to guess who wins the Van Gogh award if you’ve read any of these books, and I don’t think I would be giving anything away if I told you the answer.  Just knowing who entered the gardening contest should tell you all you need to know. Everyone who lives in this town has something wonderful happen to them.  (Makayla and Jay get book deals and fall in love; the sandwich guy and the baker fall in love; well, you get the idea).  It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out.  The minute this person enters the garden walk, you have your answer. 

Lila laments that Sean isn't making any time for her.  Does she even know what homicide detectives do?  Does she know that they're called out at all hours, all days?  If she's going to pout and be needy, then she needs to cut him loose and move on with her life.  Flora seemed over the top in this book, too.  She's an adult but goes off the deep end about something that happened in her past (and obviously didn't affect her much since she's happily married and usually bubbly).  Zach has turned into a jerk; he taunts Lila and Bentley lets him get away with it.  It's not funny, even though I believe the authors think it was meant to be.  Then, she helped incarcerate Addison's half-brother (whom she adored) and Addison hated her for it, but now they're practically best friends?  Okay, then... 

At the last, the plot 'theme' in this one was extremely close to another book in the series (and since this is only the fourth book, well, that’s a little too close I think).  Both used the growing up in foster homes angle (although they were carried in different directions).  Surely there are other plot lines that could have been used instead of the same basic idea for both books?  (In both books the foster system failed and was the motive for murder).

As you can see by my statements (or rants) I was not enamored by this book (nor have I been by any in the series).  In fact, the only reason I've stayed with them is because I genuinely like one of the authors and I was hoping that this series would improve along the way.  It hasn't.

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