Sunday, March 03, 2013

Every Trick in the Book by Lucy Arlington

Every Trick in the Book is the second book in Lucy Arlington's Novel Idea mystery series, following the success of Buried in a Book. I love the protagonist, Lila Wilkins, a woman who was downsized from her job at the local newspaper. Lila has a fascinating family, a mother who is a psychic advisor, and a son who lives and works at a co-op outside town. And, she has a job I covet. She's an agent at Novel Idea Literary Agency, representing traditional mysteries and romantic suspense.

Lila knows she has a wonderful job, reading manuscripts and queries. When the submissions are a little too violent, she passes them on to a colleague, including the chapter she read just before heading off to work a weekend at a book festival. The literary agency is hosting the area's first Book and Author Festival in Inspiration Valley, North Carolina. Lila's busy listening to pitches, attending panels, and helping with the conference. She and an editor even laugh that they look so much alike. But she finds it a little creepy when an angry looking man drops a raven's feather on her table. She's angry and scared when he corners her in an empty hall, but she tries to forget about it at the costume ball that weekend. However, when a woman ends up dead, Lila is convinced she saw the killer, and she might even have read his work.

Arlington creates a wonderful background for Lila, an interesting family life that is intricately woven into the stories. Lila doesn't forget about her family life, spending time with her mother and son, Trey, even though she's working and involved in a murder mystery. In fact, Trey's life in the co-op is a key element in this story. And, her mother adds humor and sound advice to the book.

I appreciate authors who don't use victims as just an element to move the story along. In Arlington's books, the reader gets to know the victims, and Lila is motivated to act because she wants to know who killed a woman. She doesn't want to see the crime scene investigators reach the scene because everything will change for the woman she knew. "Her roles as wife and friend and mother would lose their significance. Instead, her identity would forever be changed to 'the victim'." And, Lila is angry that a woman was killed during her agency's festival. She's determined to bring the killer to justice. It's essential in traditional mysteries that order is restored to a world off center.

However, my complaint about this book may just be my issue. As much as I like the character, her family, the literary agency and festival, the book has two situations in which Lila acts against her better judgment. And, one is just a Too Stupid To Live moment. Readers of Gothic romances are probably most familiar with the term, although there are many instances of it in mysteries as well. It's that moment when the heroine goes someplace dangerous, often at night, in order to meet or trap the villain. And, she doesn't tell the police. In this case, Lila has a boyfriend who is a police officer, one who actually respects her instincts, and she still has one of those Too Stupid To Live moments. No one can suspend disbelief any better than I can. I can read books involving ghosts, amateur sleuths, and all the cozy mysteries in which amateur sleuths solve crimes. Maybe it's my flaw as a reader that I get frustrated with the character when she knowingly puts herself in a dangerous situation.

Every Trick in the Book, despite the flaw that bothers some readers, is an intriguing mystery. And, I'll definitely pick up Lucy Arlington's next book when it comes out, Books, Cooks, and Crooks. As I said before, the characters are wonderful, and the setting is unusual. I just hope Lila learns her lesson.

(On a personal note, my sister, Christie, emails me some mornings with in-depth comments about mysteries, characters, and the characters' actions. We take our cozy mysteries very seriously. And, Christie is spot-on with her opinions. I can't wait to see if she's read this book.)

Lucy Arlington's website is

Every Trick in the Book by Lucy Arlington. Berkley Prime Crime. 2013. ISBN 9780425251675 (paperback), 294p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book


Jane R said...

I really liked the first Novel Idea mystery. I agree.... the characters are great, with interesting backgrounds that weave into the storyline. (since I've had a few "Too Stupid to Live" moments of my own, those episodes probably won't bother me too much!) Well-written, with a solid mystery - it looks like it's on its way to becoming a top-notch cozy series. Thanks for the review!

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Jane. These are well-written books, with terrific characters. I do hope it succeeds as a mystery series.

Karen C said...

I struggle so much with learning about new (to me) authors and new series; just not enough time to read everything I want!

Janel Gradowski said...

I love learning about new series. A book-related cozy series sounds very interesting, although I have to say I hate those Too Stupid To Live kinds of moments that happen in so many cozies.

Lesa said...

Terrific series, though. I hope you both give it a try.

Sue Farrell said...

I probably wouldn't have trouble believing---because I see way to many Too Stupid To Live moments right at work in real life!