PUBLICATION DATE: August 1, 2012
ate Kinkaid has agreed to help her uncle, who’s a private investigator – but only on a temporary basis. After all, one of the many résumés she has sent out is sure to send a better job her way soon.
Uncle Joe asks her to confirm that a woman named Willow Bishop lives at a particular address. It should be a quick and easy task. But when Cate arrives to find a dead body, she gets more than she bargained for. At first the police conclude that it was an accidental death, but Cate has her doubts, especially as more clues are revealed. As Cate investigates Amelia’s murder and Willow’s past, she encounters various entertaining characters.
Fans of “cozy” mysteries may enjoy Dying to Read, which centers around a quirky book club and the death of one of its members, Amelia.
This is the first book in a series that will follow Cate Kinkaid, a likeable heroine. She’s a little bit awkward and clumsy, but her determination is admirable. At first, I wasn’t sure what to think of her, but I ended up liking her quite a bit.
The plot is fast-paced and the story is interesting. Even if some of the dialogue feels a little choppy, it’s still entertaining and in parts even funny. McCourtney has a witty sense of humor, which shows through in her writing. I like the fact this is a puzzling mystery while at the same time avoiding excessive gore or violence.
However, I felt that some of the elderly book club members and other characters aren’t fully fleshed out; instead they come across almost like caricatures. In addition, and perhaps because of this, it was difficult at times to keep up with who everybody was.
There’s a romance angle in the novel, which is fun and sweet. Mitch is a likeable character and seems to have good rapport with Cate.
As she investigates, Cate starts caring for the victim’s cat, Octavia. This plot development shows us more of what Cate’s personality is like.
There is a surprise twist at the end of the book, which I won’t reveal here, but which I found to be a bit implausible. However, it’s somewhat cute and it piques our interest in terms of what will happen in the following book.
Lorena McCourtney is a popular writer, and fans of her other novels, especially the Ivy Malone series, will probably enjoy this one.
ate Kincade’s first day as an Assistant Private Investigator isn’t going the way that she thought it would go. Her Uncle Joe assured her, there would be no dead bodies.
Cate’s unfortunate beginning is mirrored in the horrible first chapter of the book. McCourtney has this description on the first page, in the first paragraph, and it threw me for a loop as a reader.
“Cate Kincade, Assistant Private Investigator. Complete with the photo he’d snapped, which showed a spike of red hair growing out of her left ear, and the address and phone number of Belmont Investigations.” I had the image of a giant ear, with a huge spike of red hair growing out of it, as the protagonist for the book for a solid five minutes. Not a good start, in fact, I’d usually close the book and set it aside if I read so blatant an error in the first paragraph of the first page.
I’m glad I gave Dying to Read a second chance. It is a surprising book that bounces between bouts of slap stick action, and surprisingly deep thoughts and manages for the most part, to pull it off.
As Cate pulls up to a gothic house to look for Willow Bishop, she finds Willow’s employer Amelia dead, and Ms. Bishop nowhere to be found. Instead, she encounters the Whodunit ladies’ book club. They were gathered for a book club luncheon Amelia was hosting. Their shock and horror mirrors Cate’s own.
Several things about Amelia’s fall don’t seem to fit into the category of accident, and suspects pile up quickly. The sharp tongued Dorris and purple clad Texie from the book club both simmer with resentment over things Amelia did which cost them money and possibly love. Cheryl, Amelia’s niece, is more interested in cataloging jewelry her aunt owned than in finding a place for Octavia, her aunt’s beloved cat.
Cate bridles her growing curiosity, and after telling the police about the missing Willow Bishop, she goes home. She wants to bring her Uncle up to speed on what has transpired and hand the case back to him. Unfortunately, Cate’s Uncle Joe is being rushed to the hospital as she arrives at the house.
At the hospital, McCourtney weaves in pieces of Cate’s practical Christianity, and the scenes between her and her step-aunt Rebecca are natural and believable, even if it does slow the pace of the story.
With Uncle Joe out of commission for the foreseeable future, Cate takes over the case locating Willow Bishop, and is pulled further and further into her Uncle’s P.I. business. She continues to work on tracking the missing woman by visiting Ms. Bishop’s past references, and at one is half choked by Mitch Berenski. This is certainly not a conventional way for a heroine to meet her love interest, but it suites the slap stick of the tale. After identifying herself to Mitch and being told for the second time, she looks somewhat like Willow, Cate learns more about the elusive Ms. Bishop and her shady past. She also manages to enlist Mitch’s help on several matters and, something more than friendship sparks between them.
When Cate finally finds Willow, the book shakes off the slap stick and dips into deeper thoughts.
Willow Bishop is an extraordinary character who may or may not be a thief, may or may not be pursued by a vengeful and abusive boyfriend, and may or may not know much more than she’s willing to tell Cate or the police. She is a delightful, multifaceted character.
Unfortunately for Dying to Read she also pulls the plot into the realm of the unbelievable. Willow’s larger than life adventures in fleeing from her boyfriend, and taking part in underhanded dealings make Cate’s floundering seem much less wild. McCourtney does an excellent job interspersing nuggets of wisdom about the difference between protective love, and controlling lustful manipulation as the girls talk.
Willow’s unreliability is one of the books best features as well as its worst flaw. It’s Willow who throws the last quarter of the book seriously off kilter. Because of her, the ending contains outrageous rescues, fiery peril, and a final solution that is full of breathless action sequences but that also strays into the predictable.
Usually with a book that ends the way this one does, I wouldn’t read any more of the series. However, McCourtney has crafted some unusual paper tigers, and they are enough to have me give the series a chance.