Thursday, May 16, 2019

Shelved Under Murder (A Blue Ridge Library Mystery #2)

Author:  Victoria Gilbert
Genre:   Mystery

Hardcover; Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781683315957; 9781683319207
Crooked Lane Books
336 Pages
$18.35; $10.99; $7.80 Amazon
July 10, 2018

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October in Taylorsford, Virginia means it's leaf peeping season, with bright colorful foliage and a delightful fresh crew of tourists attending the annual Heritage Festival which celebrates local history and arts and crafts.  Library director Amy Webber, though, is slightly dreading having to spend two days running a yard sale fundraiser for her library.  But during these preparations, when she and her assistant Sunny stumble across a dead body, Amy finds a real reason to be worried.

The body belonged to a renowned artist who was murdered with her own palette knife.  A search of the artist's studio uncovers a cache of forged paintings, and when the sheriff's chief deputy Brad Tucker realizes Amy is skilled in art history research, she's recruited to aid the investigation.  It doesn't seem to be an easy task, but when the state's art expert uncovers a possible connection between Amy's deceased uncle and the murder case, Amy must champion her Aunt Lydia to clear her late husband's name.

That's when another killing shakes the quiet town, and danger sweeps in like an autumn wind.  Now, with her swoon-inducing neighbor Richard Muir, Amy must scour their resources to once again close the books on murder.

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Amy Webber is director of the library in Taylorsfod, Virgina.  She's preparing for their annual Heritage Festival, along with her employee Sunny and help from her boyfriend Richard Muir.  On this day, Sunny has asked them to help with transporting art pieces from a local artist, since her own VW Bug isn't large enough.  But when they arrive at the artist's farm, Richard finds her dead.

But while it seems the reason for the murder is unclear, some paintings are discovered, and it appears they might be forgeries.  But things go from bad to worse when it also appears that Amy's late uncle might have been involved in those forgeries, and now Amy has to help her aunt clear her uncle's name...

This is the second book in the Blue Ridge Library mysteries, and I was looking forward to reading it because I've read the first and the third but somehow missed this one.  After reading it, I wish I would have just skipped it altogether.

The story starts out that an artist was murdered with a palette knife.  Now anyone who's ever been near an artist or knows anything about art knows that palette knives are flexible and bend easily.  They need to be, because they're for handling paint and scraping canvases (which you don't want to damage).  So the only way a person would die from one is if someone repeatedly poked you with it and you had a heart attack from the annoyance of telling them to stop.  It would have been better if the killer had forced the linseed oil down the artist's throat.

Now this might seem like a minor thing to be brushed away, but if you're not writing in a genre such as sci-fi or fantasy, the rule of thumb is: if it doesn't happen in real life, it shouldn't happen in a book.  Unfortunately, with just a tad bit of research, the author could have discovered this, but it seems that she figured no one would know or notice.  Someone did.

The second thing is, the killer was discovered immediately.  As in right away.  As in the minute they stepped onto the page.  It wasn't even remotely hidden.  Which, of course, isn't always a big deal, because honestly, it's the journey to figure out the motive and who else might be suspected of the murder.  But to tell the truth, this journey was arduous.  And painful.

Amy is not a nice person.  It's from little things to big things, and she's just not likable.  There's how she mentions that Zelda has dyed blonde hair.  Who cares?  Does she go around checking people out for what she considers flaws?  I suppose her aunt's white hair (at 64) is more attractive?  No, it will make her look older.  So why shouldn't Zelda dye her hair?  Honestly, Amy is pretentious, snobbish, selfish, and judgmental - and we'll get more into that later.

As to Sunny, "free spirit" usually translates to 'I don't want to grow up and be an adult and become a responsible human being.'  She's stringing Brad along, knowing he loves her (but won't cut him loose) and even tells Amy she can't fall in love with Brad.  He's just a convenience for her.  Not an admirable trait in any woman, and everything she says sounds like an excuse.

Oh, and FYI Amy - no one wears pantyhose anymore; I'm not even sure if they still sell it.  Also, text messages can easily be traced to the phone that sent them, so being anonymous isn't going to work in that aspect.

Richard is just too sappy for me.  He's constantly gushing over Amy like she's the world's most beautiful, talented, smartest, etc., woman, and that she could deign to lower herself to love him completely amazes him.  Really?  He doesn't act like a man so much about Amy as a love-struck teen under his first crush.  He also talks like one, calling her 'girl'.  He'll also offer her the moon, but she won't offer him anything in return.  Why do I say that?  Here's the selfish part: Amy knows Richard's a dancer, and he wants to dance with her, but she refuses (unless she's drunk enough).  Did she ever hear of taking a dance class?  Learning a few steps?  He'll help her at the library, but she won't learn to dance to make him happy.  Hence, selfish; and it certainly doesn't show that she loves him.

But the worst thing is she hates Kurt, and I can't figure out what he's ever done to hurt her.  She spills a secret to Richard about Kurt that was never meant to be told to him.  All because she hates Kurt.  She's a nasty piece of work.  Who made Amy judge, jury, and executioner?  She hates Kurt because of his possible 'shady deals' in the past that she doesn't know what they are but knows somehow he must have done something.

So what does she do?  She tries to find him guilty of conspiracy of murder, wants him in jail because of his past that she really knows nothing about ("they should charge him with something").  In fact, she spends all of her time trying to find Kurt guilty of something, anything that will get him arrested.  She's like one of those spinsters of yore who walked around town wearing black up to their necks, rimless glasses, and looking down their noses at everyone.  First, it's none of her business what Kurt's prior life (or present life, for that matter) is.  Secondly, it actually takes the fact of something Kurt says that makes her bend a little.  What a priggish woman.  And, to tell the truth, I was disappointed in the conversation.  Kurt was interesting before; in fact, he was the most interesting character in the book.  Now, not so much.

Aunt Lydia isn't blameless, either.  She'll forgive Mel almost instantaneously for Andrew, but still holds a grudge against Kurt - never even realizing that her husband was as much to blame?  The women in this family have a lot to learn about life - like if you hold on to the past you can't go forward with the future. 

At any rate, since I already knew the murderer (instantaneously) it only took getting to the end of the book (by plodding through) to find the reasons why.  I felt the writing was very good, but Amy is just not the kind of woman you want to spend time with.  She's pleasant to her friends, but very nasty to people she doesn't like - as I stated before, even trying to put them in jail when she has no basis to do so.  Her sense of justice does not trump other peoples' lives.  So, as I stated, I've read three of these books, but after reading this one, I'm not sure I'll progress to the next.

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