Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Arsenic with Austen: A Mystery by Katherine Bolger Hyde

When Emily Cavanaugh inherits a fortune from her great-aunt, she expects her life to change. She doesn't expect to embark on a murder investigation, confront the man who broke her heart 35 years before, and nearly lose her own life.

Emily travels to the sleepy coastal village of Stony Beach, Oregon, to claim her inheritance, centered on a beautiful Victorian estate called Windy Corner but also including a substantial portion of the real estate of the whole town. As she gets to know the town's eccentric inhabitants - including her own once-and-possibly-future love, Sheriff Luke Richards - she learns of a covert plan to develop Stony Beach into a major resort. She also hears hints that her aunt may have been murdered. Soon another suspicious death confirms this, and before long Emily herself experiences a near-fatal accident.
Meanwhile Emily reads Persuasion, hoping to find belated happiness with her first love, as Anne Elliot did with Captain Wentworth. She notices a similarity between her not-quite-cousin, Brock Runcible, heir to a smaller portion of her aunt's property, and Mr. Elliot in Persuasion, and her suspicions of Brock crystallize. But as she and Luke continue to investigate and events speed toward a climax, Emily realizes that underneath the innocent-looking rocks of Stony Beach lurk festering jealousies that would have shocked even the worst of Jane Austen's charming reprobates.
Series: The Crime with the Classics # 1| Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.| Narrator: Caroline Shaffer | Length: 10 hrs and 3 mins | Genre: Contemporary Cozy | Source: Publisher | Ratings: 3.5 Cups
I’m always looking for a new cozy mystery series and when I received the second book in the series, Bloodstains with Bronte, for review, I immediately picked up the first book on audio. While I liked most of it, I’m a bit on the fence about some things.
Emily’s a bit hard to take. She’s snobbish, judgmental, and—for a woman in her fifties—she’s occasionally immature. Yet, at times—even though they were rare—I found her to be likable.
Luke, the sheriff, wasn’t exactly on the top of his game when it came to his job. Several times, I found myself questioning his practices and procedures. I seriously wondered how he became sheriff. However, I did like Luke the man, he was just a good guy.
The mystery was actually solid although I did figure it out fairly early on. Still there were a few red herrings thrown in that made me question my choice.
So, the romance aspect was interesting—it’s a second chance romance for Luke and Emily. The attraction and old feelings are still there but Emily spent so much time trying to distance herself from Luke while carrying on lengthy internal ramblings about how she still loved/longed for him that it became annoying. On more than one occasion, I found myself wanting to shout at her to just tell him how she was feeling.
I really enjoyed how this one mirrored the actions of characters from Persuasion. I liked combination of a cozy and a classic and it was fun hunting for the Easter eggs. There were also a few nods to Agatha Christie and Harry Potter.
I had more than a few problems with this one but the ones that really stood out to me were the following. Emily referred to an overweight character as a ‘marshmallow’ and ‘memory foam’. I thought it was a bit distasteful. Then there was the town doctor who knew the cause of her aunt’s death and swept it under the rug so she would get the money that was left to her in the will. And rather than doing anything about it once she found out, Emily decided to keep it to herself. There was also the fact that Emily more or less threw a tantrum over the stupidest things.
I wasn’t a fan of Caroline Shaffer’s narration. She just couldn’t keep my attention and I’m wondering if her overly snobbish portrayal of Emily is made me dislike Emily.
Overall, this one had its share of problems—I’m hoping that’s due to the fact it’s the first book in a series and the author was trying to find her footing. There were a few pacing problems and some scenes just felt a bit odd but I still found aspects of this one to be interesting. We shall see what the next book holds.

Do you struggle with narrators?  

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