Once Upon a Spine
Bibliophile Mystery, Book #11
By Kate Carlisle
Author Website: Katecarlisle.com
Brooklyn’s oh-so-proper future in-laws are traveling from England to meet her, and if that’s not enough to set her on edge, rumors abound that the charming Courtyard Shops across the street may be replaced by high-rise apartments. Their trendy neighborhood will be ruined unless Brooklyn and her fiance, Derek Stone, can persuade the shopkeepers not to sell.
But with a rare edition of Alice in Wonderland causing bad blood at the Brothers Bookshop and a string of petty vandalism making everyone nervous, Brooklyn and Derek feel like they’re attempting six impossible things before breakfast. Then the owner of the Rabbit Hole juice bar is felled by his own heavy shelves, and the local cobbler lies dead beside him. An accident . . . or something more sinister? Things get curiouser and curiouser when a second priceless copy of Alice is discovered. Will it stir up more trouble within the close-knit community?
As the Brits descend, Brooklyn learns they’re not so stuffy after all. Derek’s dad is won over with chocolate cream pie, and his psychic mum would kill to help Brooklyn solve this murder before another victim takes a tumble. (Goodreads)
Once Upon a Spine, the entertaining eleventh book in the Bibliophile Mystery series, is full of family, vandalism, theft, and murder. It is not the best book of the series but amusing reading all the same.
This time around Brooklyn is anxious to meet her fiance Derek’s parents, afraid that she will not meet up to typical English standards. They and Brooklyn’s parents are all coming to stay the week to get to know one another. Brooklyn is pleasantly surprised to find Derek’s mother just as outlandish as her own mother, and their introduction is a great success. The only blight occurs when a neighboring shopkeeper is injured and another deceased. Was the toppling of the shelves at the produce market a terrible accident? Or murder? Was Bonnie, the owner of the Courtyard shops, the intended target? Of course, Brooklyn and Derek feel obligated to enmesh themselves in the investigation, and in doing so learn more about their neighbors than they probably ever wanted to know. Add in some graffiti defacing the shops, theft, and the appearance of too many rare copies of Alice Adventures in Wonderland, and Brooklyn has more than enough to keep her busy.
Most of the action in Once Upon a Spine takes place in the Courtyard shops across the street from Brooklyn’s apartment and in her home. At times I felt like I was in the middle of Peyton Place reading about all of the characters. Bickering brothers-in-law and too many romantic relationships make for some really unlikable suspects. With the exception of Rabbit, everyone is keeping secrets, holding grudges, and is overly dramatic. Bonnie in particular is nasty in the way she manipulates people, seemingly stirring up trouble for no other reason than to entertain herself. I had a hard time relating to any of them.
Brooklyn, though she has grown a lot over the course of the series, still comes across as a bit insecure and surprised by her own lot in life. Derek is as suave as ever, but, at times, their relationship comes across as too saccharine. One of my favorite aspects of this series is Brooklyn’s family, and though we do not see many of them here, Derek’s quirky parents make up for their absence. Both mothers are very similar, and I cannot help but wonder if their eccentricities will wear thin as the series goes on. For now, I greatly enjoy them.
A great deal of emphasis is placed on the family interactions and food. There is so much snacking and drinking wine going on that it became repetitious. Granted, most of the comedy comes from the chatter around their meals, but I feel like the mystery took a backseat to visiting. The mystery has a strong premise, and the climactic scene is over-the-top, but I did find it far too easy to figure out whodunit too early in the story.
Once Upon a Spine is light and entertaining fare and should please fans of the Bibliophile Mystery series. It can definitely be read as a standalone mystery. This is good diversionary reading for when real life becomes too much. Recommended.