Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Murder on the Toy Town Express (A Vintage Toy Shop Mystery #2)

Author:  Barbara Early
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #: 9781683313090; 9781683317562
Crooked Lane Books
304 Pages
$14.38; $15.99; $9.99 Amazon
October 10, 2017


Liz McCall has come to love running her father's vintage toyshop back home in East Aurora, NY, so when the Train and Toy Show comes to town, she's all aboard for a fun toy-filled weekend.  The only hitch is that her childhood bully Craig McFadden, now local business rival, has set up a booth next to hers.  But the fun and games are over when Craig falls from the ceiling in a publicity stunt gone wrong.

What was initially thought to be a fatal accident proves much more sinister.  Pulled into the case by her feelings for both Ken, the police chief, and Jack, her high school sweetheart whose brother is one of the prime suspects, Liz dives headfirst into the investigation.  But as she digs deeper, she's shocked to learn her father may  have been the intended target.


Liz McCall runs her father's vintage toyshop in East Aurora, New York.  After a shooting that left Hank McCall unable to continue as chief of police, he decided to do what he'd always wanted, and the toy store achieved that.  She and her dad are preparing for the Train and Toy Show.  When they arrive at the convention hall, Liz, to her dismay, sees that Craig McFadden is at the table next to hers.  Craig was a bully growing up and picked on her at school through the years.  He left for awhile, but when he returned opened a comic book store.  She also meets his new employee Maxine who seems nicer than Craig deserves.

But when she finally sees Craig he's dressed in some sort of odd costume with a cape and all she can find out from Maxine is that Craig has something he's going to do that will be a big surprise.  Adding to this is the fact that Liz is torn between her high school sweetheart Jack, who's attending the show with his older brother Terry, an ex-con; and Ken Young, chief of police who still relies on her father's advice now and them.  But when Craig's surprise is more than anyone bargained for - he falls from the catwalk onto a train set below - Liz has to wonder if he jumped, was pushed, or if this was a stunt gone terribly wrong.  When it's believed to be murder that leaves only one thing to do...find the killer...

This is the second book in the series and could have been very good.  I can say that I like the characters; Liz is smart and is able to notice details of things around her; her father is far too fond of puns if he's given the chance.  (I did have to wonder, however, about the mother naming her son Kohl.  She does realize that ancient Egyptians used it as makeup, and that it's still used as eyeliner, right?)

While Jack and Ken are both decent characters and seem to like one another, I also have to say that I absolutely abhor love triangles, and this book takes it to the max.  Liz is a grown woman but can't decide which of two men she wants in her life.  Just give each man a suit of armor and put them on trusty steeds with lances to joust while the woman dithers over who she wants the most and you can pretty much sum up love triangles.

In the end when the killer was finally revealed and the reasons given it was at least satisfying, but I also have to state that this is the second book I've read this week that gave us a cliffhanger and that's another thing I absolutely hate.  I tend to call it 'holding the reader hostage' because if you want to know what happens then you have to read the next book.  Now, this is fine if you're watching a television show and you know in about three months you'll find out what happens.  But with books you could wait a year or more, and that's unfair to the reader.  If you went to see a mystery at the theater and the ending left you with: 'if you want to find out the rest of the story you need to see the next film' you'd be livid.  It pretty much sums up what I feel about cliffhangers.

I would have loved to give this book a better rating, but the things I mentioned disappointed me which is why I couldn't rate the book higher.  I will read the next in the series because generally I read three books in a series before I make the decision to continue on or not.  Hopefully the next will end the nonsense from this one.  If not, she's lost me as a reader.


Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2073902435

More on Barbara Early's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/e/barbara-early/

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