Nadaness In Motion is the book blog owned by Nada Adel Sobhi and it is where honest book reviews meet author interviews, guest posts, and personal writing ranging from poetry to short stories alongside the Takhayyal/Imagine writing prompt challenge. ---
“You cannot kill a breeze, a wind, a fragrance; you cannot kill a dream or an ambition.” - Michel Onfray
Amanda Tucker is excited about opening her fashion design studio in Shops On Main, a charming old building in historic Abingdon, Virginia. She didn't realize a ghost came with the property! But soon Maxine "Max" Englebright, a young woman who died in 1930, isn't the only dead person at the retail complex. Mark Tinsley, a web designer with a know-it-all attitude who also rented space at Shops On Main, is shot in his office.
Amanda is afraid that one of her new "friends" and fellow small business owners is his killer, and Max is encouraging her to solve Mark's murder a la Nancy Drew. Easy for Max to want to investigate--the ghostly fashionista can't end up the killer's next victim!
Book Review by Nadaness In Motion
Designs on Murder by Gayle Leeson is the first book in a new paranormal cozy mystery series. Amanda decides to go on a hunch and start her fashion business in Shops on Main, a building housing several other small businesses. There she discovers her ability to see the place's resident ghost, Maxine "Max" Englebright.
Soon after she settles in, Amanda is confronted by the death of one of the shop owners in the building, Mark the web designer. Meanwhile, Max decides that she and Amanda should take up the task of solving Mark's murder. Despite thinking that this is a crazy idea, the reader can see that Amanda has already been curiously asking questions to uncover more about Mark and possibly his killer.
"I heard [Mark] on the phone a day or two before he was killed telling someone that he was about to get an influx of cash."
We also learn that Mark had a mystery girlfriend. Soon after the murder, one of the shop owners, Janice, claims her shop was broken into, adding to the mystery and the possibility that Mark's killer was still looking for something he couldn't find with Mark.
"Gee, that was awkward," she said. "I was sure you knew."
"That I'm a ghost."
I loved the cast of characters. Max is smart and hilarious; she constantly lightens the mood and puts Amanda in embarrassing situations. With Max's presence, Amanda finds a friend and becomes attached to the place. Amanda teaches Max how to use her tablet and downloads books and movies for her to read while the shop is closed. I loved their relationship.
"The big difference between you, me, and the old lady in the book is that fictional characters don't get killed for sticking their noses into other peoples' business."
I also liked Amanda's friendly and loving grandfather, who, when Max was not around, brainstormed with her about suspects and ideas. There are lots of other likeable characters in Shops on Main, many of which I expect to appear in later books.
Designs on Murder is narrated from Amanda's first person perspective. There is also lots of conversation, making the pace quite quick and enjoyable.
"Max fanned her face with both hands. 'That man was looking at the small of your back the way a child looks at a chocolate cake.'"
We also get some mystery around Max's death in the 1930's as well as a possible relation between Max's family and Amanda's. Later, a psychic, brought in by Mark's mother, says she could feel Max's presence in Shops on Main, noting that the person – that is Max – may have fallen ill or have been poisoned.
"I can tell you one thing. Your son died because of someone else's secret. But that secret will soon be revealed."
I disliked that Amanda had to often repeat herself when she retelling certain events to her grandfather or other characters. I thought these could just be mentioned in narration rather than half long quotes in the book.
Apart from that, I think Designs on Murder by Gayle Leeson is a five-star humour-filled read with loveable characters. I'd definitely pick up the following books in the series. Overall rating: 5 stars
Update: This post originally included giveaways, which have ended have been removed for space (and to avoid endless scrolling!)
About the Author
Gayle Leeson is a pseudonym for Gayle Trent. Gayle has also written as Amanda Lee and Gayle Trent. As Amanda Lee, she wrote the Embroidery Mysteryseries, and as Gayle Trent, she writes the Daphne Martin Cake Mysteryseries and the Myrtle Crumb Mysteryseries.
Going forward, Gayle intends to keep her writing until the Gayle Leeson name. She has a series of women's fiction novellas set in a shopping mall that has been converted to include micro-apartments (the Kinsey Falls series) and has just begun this new cozy series, the Ghostly Fashionista Mystery series.
Another Down South Cafe novel is slated for release in August with book two in the Ghostly Fashionista series scheduled for October.