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Monday, February 27, 2017

Review - A Dark and Stormy Murder

It took a few months to get to this book in the TBR pile.  But the concept of a Gothic cozy mystery was so compelling, I finally made the time to read it.  Find out if Gothic works in a cozy in the review.  Julia Buckley is also the author of the UnderCover Dish Mystery series.  She did us the honor of a guest author post (click here) where she shared her love of gothic suspense author Mary Stewart.

Author: Julia Buckley

Copyright: July 2016 (Berkley) 304 pgs

Series: 1st in Writer's Apprentice Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy

Main Characters: Lena London, new writing assistant to a best-selling author

Setting: Modern day, Blue Lake Indiana

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

From the book cover: "Lena London's literary dreams are coming true—as long as she can avoid any real-life villains...
Camilla Graham’s bestselling suspense novels inspired Lena London to become a writer, so when she lands a job as Camilla’s new assistant, she can’t believe her luck. Not only will she help her idol craft an enchanting new mystery, she’ll get to live rent-free in Camilla’s gorgeous Victorian home (Graham House) in the quaint town of Blue Lake, Indiana.
But Lena’s fortune soon changes for the worse. First, she lands in the center of small town gossip for befriending the local recluse. Then, she stumbles across one thing that a Camilla Graham novel is never without—a dead body, found on her new boss’s lakefront property.
Now Lena must take a page out of one of Camilla’s books to hunt down clues in a real crime that seems to be connected to the novelist’s mysterious estate—before the killer writes them both out of the story for good."

Lena makes friends really easily. Within a few hours of arriving in Blue Lake for her new job she strikes up a friendship with a surly neighbor the majority of people in town are leary of since he is still a prime suspect in the disappearance of his wife - and a scattered young woman with two children in tow.  She is intelligent yet can fly into tangents of shear emotion.  Best-selling author Camilla is a delight and a star in the book. BFF Allison seems like a great person, but I would like a bit more of her character.  

Sam West is an slightly older man with a dark cloud of suspicion that he killed is "missing" wife.  **Spoiler: I find Lena's nearly instant interest in and defense of him, and he in her, a bit creepy considering his wife's suspicious disappearance. **End Spoiler.  Policeman Doug Heller who takes his job very seriously and is the popular guy with blonde good looks tries to impress Lena. Adam Rayburn runs the one upscale restaurant, Wheat Grass, and seems interested in Camilla.  I have to mention the animals: Lena's cat Lestrade and Camilla's German Sheperds Rochester and Heathcliff are great!

Blue Lake is an ideal setting and Graham house has a few locals who swear it holds a secret - they evoke the gothic atmosphere.  The main plot has it's own complexities, but the subplots of Graham House's secret and Sam's wife's disappearance cast long shadows and add great layers.  Pacing kept the interest up.  

You know I like the hair raising tense killer reveals, and this book delivered.  Great job there.  The wrap up leaves a pretty big sub-plot cliff hanger so you are on the edge of your seat for the next book.

I loved this Gothic cozy in many ways, but there was the blemish I mentioned in the spoiler, plus Lena has an incredibly childish moment and throws food at the police for doing their jobs.  Those are the down side.  The up side is a successfully atmospheric tale with a substantial mystery and otherwise well done characters.  I down right loved parts. I will definitely be looking for the next book in this new series.  
Rating: Excellent - Loved it, it had a good grip on me inspite of some minor issues! 

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