We have the first book in a new cozy mystery series written by the mother/daughter team of Victoria and Mary Jane Maffini as Victoria Abbot. Mary Jane Maffini is most recently known for her Professional organizer Charlotte Adams mysteries. Let's see how well this collaboration worked.
Author: Victoria Abbott
Copyright: March 2013 (Berkley) 304 pgs
Series: 1st in Book Collector Mysteries
Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy
Main Characters: Jordan Bingham, needing a job and place to live
Setting: Modern day, Harrison Falls NY
Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review
Jordan loves the uncles who raised her (shady business dealings aside), but she would like to live on her own now and pay off her student loans. She answers an ad for a research assistant to an eccentric book collector that includes room and board. It sounds like the ideal job for her. She is hired on the spot and adores her own rooms that she refers to as her garret apartment. But Jordan soon discovers that the man she is replacing had suspiciously been pushed onto the subway tracks while doing the very research project Jordan is hired to do.
Her assignment is to locate and acquire a never before mentioned Agatha Christie play (supposedly written during her eleven-day disappearance) that may have gotten the last researcher killed. Her new employer is not just eccentric, but cranky, surly, and hated by everyone in town. Then there is the ever present Harrison Falls cop popping up regularly as if he is following Jordan. It takes all the street smarts her uncles taught her to do her research while investigating the murder of her predecessor. She may even have to call upon her uncle's unique skill sets to help her out.
Jordan is a refreshing cozy heroine. She is street savvy plus has a masters degree. Her parents died when she was young and she was raised by her uncles. She has taken an unconventional upbringing and sees the positives in it. Uncles Lucky and Mick are the two primary uncles who raised her and she currently lives with. They are shady in non-specific ways, but the local crime boss, Salvatore Tascone, attended her first communion and owes Mick a favor if that tells you anything. Other uncles are introduced, but these two are great characters that I will relish getting to know better. Vera Van Alst is a curmudgeon that just may have more feelings than she likes to admit to. The combination of Jordan and Vera is a great mix and I think will continue to work as the series progresses. Tyler Dekker, the enigmatic policeman nicknamed "Officer Smiley" added interest throughout. The reader is never quite sure what his agenda is until the end. The handsome librarian, Lance DeWitt, gives librarians everywhere a new persona as the flirtatious romantic interest. I love the change-up of the hunky library dude for a potential romantic interest rather than the now over-used cop boyfriend.
The setting was the aged Van Alst mansion mixed up with small town Harrison Falls and neighboring towns. The mansion is a good setting, but I hope it is used as more than a backdrop as we move forward with the series because it has tremendous potential.
The plot of a potential new play by Agatha Christie and what people might do for such a valuable collectable piece of literary history was nicely constructed and played out. The role of this possible play with the overall mystery was dead on. The pacing kept a steady level of interest with danger lurking and a few good twists. The voice of Jordan is not as chatty as some, but follows her smart and savvy makeup. I found the voice to be engaging.
The climax was a one-two punch. Just when you thought things were wrapped up, the other shoe drops. Kudos on that. The wrap-up was just priceless as well.
This is a fantastic debut of a new cozy series with a refreshing heroine and sparkling cast of characters with smart plotting.
Rating: Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend.