Sunday, January 10, 2016

Beaded in Mystery - Review for High Strung by Janice Peacock


High Strung by Janice Peacock is the first instalment in the Glass Beads Mystery series. The novel begins with Jax O'Connell receiving a letter from the lawyer of her late aunt Rita, who offers to give her her house in Seattle, on the condition that she – Jax – must do what she loves.

The letter, contains two of the most beautiful lines in the novel:
"I know inside your tired heart is a woman waiting to start living." Then she sets the condition, "You must live in my house and find your creative passion. I hope my gift helps you live the life you love."
Jax accepts the offer and begins to make beads in a studio she sets at the end of Aunt Rita's complex.

The novel is narrated from Jax's first person perspective, which is fun since Jax is sarcastic, fun and very down to earth.
High Strung revolves around a bead makers' event, hosted by Rosie at her shop Aztec Beads, which includes several workshops given by various bead makers from several states.

Rosie is an obnoxious and domineering character. Even her dog is annoying.
"Rosie was a fireplug of a woman; her dark hair, complete lack of neck, and right now the intense look of anger on her red face made her look like a very serious fireplug."

Ms. Peacock does a great job in drawing her characters, bringing them to life and making the reader feel as if they were part of the setting and the novel as a whole. It is easy to imagine characters; in fact, I felt as if I'd become part of the book and that going out the door I'd find Aztec beads and Jax around the corner.

Two events take place almost hours apart: Rosie is strangled by her own bead necklace and shortly after another character is killed. At first, it is unclear whether the events are connected, and later Jax and her best friend Tessa work on the how and why they may be connected.

Although the actual mystery does not begin till halfway through the book, High Strung was a fun read, especially since the characters had day-to-day ups and downs and interactions that would seem bizarre in real life but are believable when read.

The only thing I disliked about the novel was how the mystery was unfolded; it was kind of sudden in a weird way. I wanted a stronger confrontation.

Still, I liked how ordinary people had to run around looking for clues and interviewing their friends in order to discover who the killer was and why they did it – Don't depend on "Detective Grant" for that. I also enjoyed Jax's and Tessa's analysis of what they had, the possible motives and so on.

I also loved the use of bead-imagery with regards to the mystery. At one point Jax tells Tessa: "We just have to sort through the junk. You know, like organising a jumbled box of beads. All we have to do is put each piece in its proper place, and we'll be able to see what we have."

In High Strung, it is clear that the author has done massive effort and research to provide explanations for the bead-making process and descriptions for the beads, which were all colourful and just made you want to see – and acquire – many of them in real life.

There's also lots of comedy from start to finish, making it an even cozier and more enjoyable read.
"I didn't think an exploding cake was a reason to call 911, so I called you instead," Val [told Jax].

"My own animal companion was going to have a kitten (although anatomically impossible for a variety of reasons) if another animal of any kind entered his house. I was sure Gummie considered this his house, and that he let me live here simply for his own convenience, because I knew hwo to open cat food cans."

One of the best things about the novel, apart from character depth, is character development. Both protagonist Jax, and the "fireplug" Rosie see some development towards the end of the novel, which is rare in mystery novels in general.

Overall, High Strung is a fun, cozy read with beautiful characters and an interesting mystery. It is also a great start to my reading list for 2016.

Note: I received a free copy from Booktrope Publishing in exchange for an honest review.