Friday, September 28, 2018

A Murder for the Books (A Blue Ridge Library Mystery #1)

Author:  Victoria Gilbert
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Trade Paperback; Digital Book; Audio Book
ISBN #:  9781683314394; 9781683316077
Crooked Lane Books
352 Pages
$18.35; $15.99; $7.99
December 12, 2017 (June 2018 Paperback)


Fleeing a disastrous love affair, Amy Webber leaves her job as a university librarian to live with her aunt in a quiet, historic Virginia mountain town.  Soon enough, she lands a new gig managing the town's charming public library.  Busy trying to hold things together at work, the last thing Amy needs is a new, available neighbor whose charm is bound to lure her into trouble.

Richard Muir inherited the farmhouse next door from his great-uncle and with it, the house's scandalous story.  Town folklore claims the house's original owner was poisoned by his wife, who vanished after her sensational 1925 murder trial.  Richard implores Amy to help him clear the name of the woman his great-uncle loved.  Amy is skeptical until their research implicates the town's leading families...even hers.

And now it's up to Amy and Richard to turn the page on the town's turbulent past.


Amy Webber moves to a quiet Virginia town to live with her aunt and work as a librarian after an embarrassing episode at nearby Clarion University.  When she meets her new neighbor Richard Muir, she's attracted to him but determined to stay away after her recent fiasco.  But that's easier said than done when Richard asks her help in solving a mystery - the truth as to whether Daniel Cooper was poisoned by his wife Eleanora back in 1925.  Although she was acquitted and left the area soon after, there are those who believe otherwise.  But his late great-uncle Paul believed she was innocent, and now Richard wants to find out if he was right.

When Amy and Richard find a library patron dead in the archive building, they can't imagine who would want to kill the old woman.  But when someone comes forward with a theory and that person is also killed, they know they're going down a path someone doesn't want them to.  But will they stop investigating, or will Amy be the one to take the final journey?...

The premise sounded interesting (I do love mysteries within mysteries) but I was barely in a few pages when I read Amy's description of her 'frail' aunt - who wears pearls, has white hair and needs a can for a leg injury.  She even mentions that at least her hearing is okay.  So how old is this decrepit woman?  64.  That's right.  This author believes 64 is elderly.  Personally, many women in their 60's are physically active, do sports, dye their hair, wear makeup, and don't. wear. pearls.  (That's just too much of a cliché for me).  In fact, I don't know anyone around that age who does.  Necklaces, sure; but not pearls.  I also don't know any who have hearing aids (although I'm sure some do).  She writes of her as if she's in her eighties.  She also says she has a second cousin who is 59 and has 'steel gray hair'.  It makes you wonder if she thinks once you hit 55 you need a rocking chair.  (While I know there are women who just decide to go au naturel when they start to turn gray, at 59 most probably wouldn't).

I also didn't feel that Amy had a strong enough reason to leave Clarion.  If a woman finds her boyfriend cheating - at an event they're attending together - it's to be forgiven if she reacts in the heat of the moment.  Even the recipient of the drink should have understood that, and censured Charles, not her.  It doesn't say much about the dean that he didn't, so maybe it was good that she left Clarion.  Who'd want to work there knowing this?  (I get she embarrassed the man, but they both should have been taken to the dean's office and the dean should have been upset with him, not her).

There were also no descriptions of the Blue Ridge Mountains or the area.  This book could have taken place anywhere and we wouldn't have known the difference.  There were no descriptions of the town, either.  We knew there was a library, a diner, and the description of her aunt's home, but that's about it.  Unfortunately, these things made the book feel flat for me.  The most interesting character in the book was Karl/Kurt, and we didn't find out a whole lot about him.

I knew who the murderer of Eleanora was almost immediately and why; I didn't feel that this was hidden at all, but then again maybe it wasn't supposed to be; the killer of Doris took me a bit longer.  I thought the reasons why were alright, but not real satisfying, and I didn't like the fact that the book left out details of things that should have been explained, and they never were.  (This, however, isn't specific to this author; I'm finding more and more authors are telling you something and then never following through on it).  Also, why even tell us the name of the former librarian if he's not even in the book?  This just seems superfluous to me.

In the end, I realize that this was a first-in-the-series book, and this is a new author, so I'm giving a pass on this one and hope that these things improve in the next.


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