Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Played By The Book - Lucy Arlington

Played By The Book
A Novel Idea Mystery
Lucy Arlington
Berkley Prime Crime

Everyone loves a ‘local boy makes good’ story, and that’s what Novel Idea Literary Agency is celebrating.  Damian York grew up in the area, left after high school, and now returns as an up-and-coming home and garden guru.  He’s already got a show on public television, and his first book is about to be released.  To mark the occasion, the agents of Novel Idea are organizing an outdoor dinner and book-signing event.  They’ll decorate along the same lines as the photos/suggestions in his book, using reclaimed doors for tables, tinted mason jars to hold wild flowers, and pots of fresh herbs on each table, waiting to be snipped and eaten by the diners.
Of course, Lila Watkins is right in the middle of things.  Although Damian isn’t her client, this is a team effort.  She’s been meaning to clean up her own home garden, so when her boss suggests that she participate in the walking garden tour – also part of the festivities – she’s got the motivation to make it happen.  While her son, Trey, is uprooting some sad-looking bushes, he discovers a human skull.  Lila calls the police, of course, and soon an entire skeleton comes to light.  Tests say that the skeleton has been there for maybe thirty years.  Lila naturally wants to find out who this person was, and possibly bring closure to a still-grieving family.
Finding a skeleton in your garden is a really good reason to launch your own investigation, I’d say.  Lila is hampered this time by a sort of estrangement from her boyfriend, who was just promoted to detective.  That brings me to The Big Misunderstanding, my very least favorite literary device.  Lila and her boyfriend have TBM; one that could be cleared up with a few declarative sentences, and since they’re both past forty, that’s what should happen.  Instead, there are ignored calls and dropped hints and trying to start jealousy.  Not how I’d expect these two characters, who until now have been written like real adults, to behave.  Your reaction will vary, of course, based on your tolerance for this device.

Aside from this issue, which may not impact other readers the way it does me, there are some interesting things going on in this installment (BURIED IN A BOOK; EVERY TRICK IN THE BOOK; BOOKS, COOKS, AND CROOKS.)  Several characters evolve and develop, and others hit new life milestones.  In a longstanding series, it’s nice to see the characters grow this way.  For readers who enjoy seeing the inner workings of a literary agency, there’s a good deal more of that this time around. The mystery was interesting, and there was enough misdirection to make the eventual reveal both surprising and original.  I have to admit, this series is really starting to grow on me.
Rating:  7
February 2015
ISBN# 978-0-425-25224-6 (paperback)


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