A Plus One for Murder
A Friend for Hire Mystery, Book #1
By Laura Bradford
Author Website: laurabradford(.)com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
Entrepreneur Emma Westlake is reinventing herself as a hired friend when murder gets in the way in this exciting new mystery series from USA Today bestselling author Laura Bradford.
Emma Westlake has always wanted to be in business for herself. As a kid, she had her own successful lemonade stand and dog-walking business. And when she entered adulthood, Emma sunk all her cash into her dream job of travel planning. But as her customers became more and more internet savvy, the need for her services declined. At a loss for what to do next, she turns to an elderly friend who suggests she try to get paid for doing something she’s really good at–being a paid companion. Emma thinks it’s a crazy idea until requests start pouring in. Big Max from down the block wants her to act as his wingman at the local senior center’s upcoming dance, nurse practitioner Stephanie needs a workout partner, and writer Brian Hill asks Emma to be his cheering section at an open mic night.
Brian will be reading from his latest work and wants to know someone will clap for him when he’s done. When Emma balks at the notion that people wouldn’t, he tells her the room will be filled with people he’s invited–most of whom will likely want him dead by the time he’s done reading. Assuming he’s joking, she laughs. But when Brian steps up to the mic and clears his throat to speak, he promptly drops dead. Emma is one of the last people to see him alive, and so she becomes an immediate suspect. Now she’ll have to cozy up to a killer to save her skin and her new business. (Goodreads)
A Plus One for Murder, the debut Friend for Hire mystery, sets a good foundation for what I hope will be a long running series.
Emma Westlake’s travel business is floundering, and she is in desperate need of a new source of income. While lamenting her situation to an elderly lady with whom she has a weekly afternoon tea appointment, Dottie suggests that Emma do exactly what she does for Dottie for others…hire out as a companion. Emma scoffs at first, but the calls seeking her assistance start coming in immediately since Dottie is well connected. When freelance journalist and pot stirrer Brian Hill requests she join him at an open mic night, and then keels over shortly after taking the stage, Emma wants nothing to do with the investigation. However, her new client Stephanie and Dottie dive right in looking for clues and motives. Emma remains a reluctant sleuth until….
I think the premise of this series is great, and I can envision many future clients’ circumstances leading to murder investigations. There is a lot of potential here. One of my favorite things about the story is Dottie’s avid love for cozy mysteries which fuels her desire to be an amateur sleuth. She uses them almost as an amateur sleuth instruction manual. One of her favorite books is from another series by author Laura Bradford.
The supporting characters, including Dottie and Stephanie, make the book. They are funny, entertaining, and the true stars of the story. Emma’s other client Big Max steals any scene in which he appears, and her dog Scout is front and center throughout the tale. This leads me to Emma…I want to like her so much but thus far find her quite vanilla. The whole time I was reading I kept wondering where her friends and family were? What about her life before this book begins? It just feels odd, and she could really use some character development. I hope she becomes more flushed out in the second installment. There are hints to a potential love triangle coming. If so, I pray it is quickly resolved.
The mystery is well thought out and executed, and the pace is steady throughout (despite Emma’s dithering about investigating). There are four suspects from the get go (the victim gives Emma their info right before stepping on stage) so investigating is focused from the beginning. However, there are lots of clues and misdirection that keep readers guessing about the killer’s real identity. Each suspect is viable, each of their motives is engaging, and they all eventually weave together to make a satisfactory conclusion.
Overall, I enjoyed A Plus One for Murder and will definitely give the next book in the series a try.
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