Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Murder at Harbor Village

Author:  GP Gardner
Genre:  Mystery

Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781516109007
Lyrical Underground Publishing
216 Pages
$15.00; $3.99 Amazon
November 13, 2018


Young retiree Cleo Mack is trading in academia for a second act in Harbor Village, a community for active seniors in coastal Alabama.  But someone in this picture-perfect coastal town is burning the candle at both ends...

It's love at first sight when Cleo arrives in Fairhope, Alabama, after taking early retirement from her longtime position as professor of social work.  Touted as "the nicest town in the world," Fairhope is home to an eclectic community of retirees.  Harbor Village boasts classes in painting, pottery, and photography, not to mention being a buyer's market for husbands.  It seems an ideal place to make new friends and rediscover life.  Until a dead body is found in the pool.

When the victim turns out to be the unpopular director of senior living, Cleo is named acting director.  Now she must rely on her well-honed people skills to uncover a killer in a place where short-term memory isn't what it used to be, and age is just a number.  And if Cleo keeps snooping around, her number may soon be up...


Cleo Mack is a young widow in Alabama who is offered early retirement from her teaching job at a university.  While she's still deciding - her daughter wants her to move to Birmingham - she stops off in Fairhope and immediately falls in love with the town.  Then she meets an older woman who tells her how nice her retirement community is; and a younger woman who is an RN at the same facility, and she makes the decision then and there to call Fairhope home.

When she's offered a job at the facility the next day, she's surprised but accepts.  Then someone is murdered and she's offered the job of Executive Director - which she agrees to take on a temporary basis only.  Soon enough she finds out that there's more to the story, and as circumstances will have it, that there's also a very real reason she was offered the job...

I honestly wanted to love this book.  It's a mystery, which I love, and the cover was enticing.  However, there were too many unnecessary details, which seemed like the author only wanted to get her 'word count' up enough to get it published.  Things like, "I added some chocolate covered almonds and put the snacks into a plastic bag from the grocery store."  Do we really need to know it was a 'plastic bag from the grocery store'?  Or about all the snacks?  Then there were conversations (and thoughts in her head), things like asking where the detergent is, the bed linens, where to put the modem, etc.  These are all superfluous and too much like the things we do in our ordinary life.  We know they need to be done; we don't need to hear Every Single Detail.  Even to putting the iron on the shelf in the laundry room.  Did we think it would be on the coffee table instead?   

But then it explains why Cleo - in her 40's - would want to move into a retirement community and hang out with people in their 80's playing dominoes.  Who would do that?  Isn't that like a teenager wanting to hang around with people in their 40's?  I can't see how anyone would think this was normal behavior.  It's nice that she's friends with the residents; but they shouldn't be her only source of a social life if they think playing dominoes, eating sandwiches and going to bed at 8 pm is a fun night.  (I also can't see someone owning two cats and just leaving one to fend for herself while taking the other with her.  I'm a cat owner, and I would never do anything like this.)

So while the first half of the book was really strange and didn't make any sense, the second half picked up a bit and it got interesting.  I enjoyed reading about how Cleo was actually taking charge of everything and figuring out what was going on; it brought the book to a nice pace.  The writing was done very well, and the descriptions of the harbor area were lovely; I do believe this author has potential. 

Although I never felt that Cleo was threatened in any way or in danger of any kind, and I felt the circumstances surrounding the murder was rather 'mild' to put it, it was still a decent start for a first book, and I hope to see this author hone her skills and improve over time.  I'd like to see less mundane details and more teeth in the series.  All in all, not a bad beginning for a new series and I will read the next.


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