Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Book Fair and Foul by Erika Chase

I love mysteries set in the book world, whether they're about authors, book fairs, libraries, book groups, bookstores. Erika Chase combines a few of those elements in her latest Ashton Corners Book Club mystery, Book Fair and Foul.

Molly Mathews, owner of A Novel Plot bookstore, is hosting her first book fair in Ashton Corners, Alabama. Her friends in the Ashton Corners Mystery Readers and Cheese Straws Society are all helping, including Lizzie Turner, the reading specialist at the elementary school. Four authors had been invited to the mystery fair, and Lizzie was a little shocked to discover that two of them seemed to be divas, complaining and competing. But, she was even more shocked to learn that the publicist who showed up unexpectedly, Ashley Dixon, was her old college roommate. And, there were good reasons the two only roomed together for one semester. Ashley was hateful to Lizzie, spreading rumors about her. And, it didn't seem any different when Ashley showed up in town, eyeing Mark Dreyfus, the chief of police and Lizzie's boyfriend. Even so, Lizzie was embarrassed to death when she yelled at Ashley in public. It made it even worse when Ashley turned up dead, with Lizzie's cell phone nearby.

With Lizzie the number one suspect, suspended from her job at school, it gives her plenty of time to look for a killer, with the help of friends in the book club. Who would want to frame Lizzie for murder?

As I said, Chase's book has many elements that I love. The chapter headings were fun, quotes taken from other mysteries, containing hints as to what each chapter was about. And, I enjoyed all the discussion of books. But, I wanted to like this book more than I actually did. Perhaps this is my own issue, since I like police procedurals as well as traditional mysteries. As a cozy mystery, the amateur sleuth should investigate and find the killer. In this case, though, Mark is an excellent police chief, carrying on a careful investigation. So, I agreed with him when he responded to Lizzie when she insisted she needed to know who he suspected. "You need to know? I need you to keep out of this investigation. We go through this every time there's a murder, Lizzie. I am the cop. You are the civilian. It's my job to solve this. It's your job to stay out of it. I can't let you get involved just because we're in a relationship. And besides all that, it's too frigging dangerous. Now will you please back off?"

She should have backed off. I'm sorry if that's an unrealistic reaction to a cozy mystery since we're supposed to suspend disbelief. I just had a hard time accepting that Lizzie wouldn't let Mark do his job when he was so good at it. I've had this argument before with a mystery author. I understand it's necessary for the sake of the mystery for the amateur sleuth to solve the case. But, sometimes, I'm just not happy with it. Just my opinion of Book Fair and Foul.

Erika Chase's website is www.erikachase.com

Book Fair and Foul by Erika Chase. Berkley Prime Crime. 2014. ISBN 9780425271490 (paperback), 294p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.


Reine said...

Hi Lesa,

I like mysteries set in the book world too, so I was pleased to see your review of Book Fair and Foul.

I was very interested in your comments regarding cozy mysteries, because I was little confused about what characteristics were expected for a book to be called a cozy. I guess I hadn't realized, although I now recall having heard it before, that an essential piece is having the amateur sleuth solve the case.

With that in mind it brought up the question of books that have all of the standard elements expected regarding location, characters, type of crime, etc. except lacking the amateur detective.

Louise Penny's books, at least the first few, seem to be cozies—without the amateur sleuth. I wonder if I feel about them that way, because in the first few Three Pines books everyone in the village seems to be involved in the solution, while the Sûreté du Québec are outsiders—intruders, even.

I'm very interested in your thoughts on this, because I'm a devotée of Louise's books. I love how she developed the characters and the village and especially over time, the richness and depth—and darkness—of her characters' lives.

Carol N Wong said...

Thank you for the review! It is good to see constructive criticism of a cozy. I love cozies but sometimes I wonder! The one that I just finished has the amatuer dectective breaking and entering. When I got to that part of the book. I stopped and stared at the book.