Sunday, November 20, 2016

Key to a Murder – Book Review

Book: Key to a Murder
(Antique Hunters Mystery book 4)
Author: Vicki Vass
Genre: Cozy Mystery


A mysterious woman appears on the doorstep of Great Aunt Sybil's Attic in the middle of the night. Owner Anne Hillstrom lets her in, only to have the woman die in her arms.
With no final words, and only an old lantern clutched to her chest, the dead woman provides Anne and her partner CC precious few clues to discover her murderer or why she spent her last moments in their antique store. The two Antique Hunters search for clues, finding themselves entangled in a centuries-old mystery leading them to a cemetery in Ireland where a ghost from the past has left them a cryptic message, and a killer has left them no choice but to discover his identity before he kills again.
On their journey, the two best friends encounter antiques, romance and the key to a murder. Key to a Murder is the fourth book in the Antique Hunters Mystery series.

Book Review

Key to a Murder by Vicki Vass is a cozy mystery – well sort of. It does have almost all the criteria of a cozy, but the mystery is aspect is significantly lacking in the novel. In fact, at some point – almost towards the third of the book – I had to go back and reread the synopsis to remember why I picked up the book in the first place.

The mystery is about the lantern, but until almost half the novel, there are only a few mentions of it and it is thrown to the background and is not considered a pressing matter.

The novel has a very strong opening with the possible ghost of Anne's late Aunt Sybil, the introduction of the mystery woman who dies in Anne's arms and the old Irish lantern.

While I liked that the mystery was not about a person specifically, but rather about an object, I didn't like that I had to read chapters on food, antiques, buying and selling that didn't pertain to the mystery itself. There were many chapters that I could have easily cut out because, for me, they neither moved the story nor helped the mystery.

There was also something in the narration. Sometimes the sentences were too short; it felt like I was hitting walls rather than full-stops. At other times, the narration felt like it was a story told to a five-year-old. So it felt out of place and irritating – throughout.

I did like how we got know more about Anne through her actions. She is carefree, spontaneous, and disillusioned.

In terms of characterisation, I couldn't stand Anne. I tried, I really did. But I couldn't. She's a quirky character, an aspect for a cozy; however, the quirkiness makes the 40-something antique shop-owner act like a five-year-old ALL THE TIME! She's immature, and impulsive. Yes, she's kind. But, unbearable.

I did, however, like her friend CC, who I might add was the one who pretty much did all the research and 'cracked the case'. Still, CC, who has a few quirks of her own, was sometimes irritating. She is a know-it-all kind of character and likes to narrate history to anyone who'd listen. Like Anne, I got bored of her rambles and sometimes wanted to skip some parts.

In a guest post by the author, published here on the blog, I discovered that Vass has a different and more enjoyable writing style. She also mentions that she lets her characters take her wherever they want – hence I would presume the chapters that for me weren't needed.

Of the quotes and lines I liked were: "Old farmhouses in the middle of nowhere on rainy nights were better left to cozy mysteries than real life."

"CC half expected to see a hobbit answer the door when she knocked. The woman who answered was a bit taller than a hobbit but not by much."

One of the reasons I finished the book was to see if the unraveling of the mystery would WOW me or not. It ended up being a bit complex but the mystery-solving came in the last third of the novel. It was also rather rushed, like "oh my the novel is about to end and I haven't solved the mystery yet!"

By p. 159 (that's 75% through), there was at last some development! I thought the novel would end while the mystery remained in the trunk of the car.

The conversations between the characters were mostly basic, bits that can be skipped. Some were too long and useless.

I liked that there was a good bit of a historical background, making the novel a historical fiction cozy.

Of all the notes I kept writing throughout Key to a Murder, was pointing out how immature Anne was and how many of the events don't lead to anything.

The good side about reading this novel was learning a few tricks for my own writing.

My overall rating for Key to a Murder is 1.5-2 stars.

I had high hopes for this novella, most of which didn't come through.

Note: I received a free copy of Key to a Murder by Vicki Vass in exchange for an honest review with Lori Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours. But since my review is less than 3 stars, I opted to keep it till after the tour was over.

I'm honest and I don't hold back on what I like or dislike about a book. But it wouldn't have been fair to post this review as part of a promotional tour. 

I would, however, recommend you read the guest post by Vicki Vass, titled "Blurring the Lines between Reality and Fiction".

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