Last month, when Carolyn Hart was honored as a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America, they were honoring one of the best authors of traditional mysteries. Her latest Death of Demand Bookstore mystery, Death at the Door, is just one more piece of evidence that she knows how to write a puzzle to keep readers guessing. In a small, closed community, there should be a death that tears at the community. Add in a likely suspect, a doubting amateur sleuth, a cast of interesting characters, a dangerous scene, and a resolution with a surprising killer. There should be a satisfying ending in which justice is served. The sign of a true Grand Master? She can take the formula for a traditional mystery, make it original, and surprise the reader. That's Carolyn Hart with her latest Annie and Max Darling mystery.
When Paul Martin, a well-respected doctor in the island community of Broward's Rock, South Carolina, is found dead, everyone is shocked that he killed himself. And, just a few days later, his death is followed by the brutal killing of one of the wealthiest women on the island. It takes Paul's sister to say that the two deaths are connected, insisting her brother did not commit suicide. Although Lucy can't convince Police Chief Billy Cameron that her brother's death wasn't a suicide, she can convince Annie Darling, owner of Death on Demand Bookstore. And, Annie has allies. Her husband, Max, owner of Confidential Commissions, will help, along with the Intrepid Trio, made up of Max' mother, a mystery author, and a mystery authority. These five bring a knowledge of the island community, and a determination to find a killer. When a reporter's story leads to arson, they know they're on the right track.
What does Carolyn Hart do well? Everything. She gives us a likely suspect, and a surprising killer. There are twists and turns to the case. There's a group of amateur sleuths who are not "Too Stupid To Live". Although the police chief may not believe them, they continue to turn all their information and clues over to him. They don't hide information from the police. And, they keep each other informed as to their whereabouts. And, Annie Darling truly cares about the victims. The victims are never forgotten in the search for a killer. Hart brings a satisfying conclusion to the case, for the reader, and the community.
Fans of traditional mysteries will have to appreciate the two cats, Agatha and DorothyL. And, of course, there's that wonderful bookstore, Death on Demand, with the fun picture puzzles, and the discussions of contemporary and classic mysteries. Death at the Door is one more reason why Carolyn Hart is a Grand Master for all of us who love traditional mysteries.
Note: At the Edgars dinner honoring the Grand Masters, they played this video trailer, the official MWA trailer.
Carolyn Hart's website is www.carolynhart.com
Death at the Door by Carolyn Hart. Berkley Prime Crime. 2014. ISBN 9780425266175 (hardcover), 264p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.