Bookmarked for Murder
Mystery Bookshop #5
By V.M. Burns
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
Amateur sleuth Samantha Washington’s shopping trip to Chicago takes a deadly detour when a man is murdered on her bus . . .
After some post-Christmas retail therapy in the Windy City, mystery bookshop owner and historical whodunit novelist Sam Washington is returning home to North Harbor, Michigan, on a chartered bus. With Nana Jo and her gal pals Irma, Dorothy, and Ruby Mae from Shady Acres Retirement Village along for the ride, it’s a lively trip. But one passenger is not so lively—a gentleman Irma befriended is found dead in his seat after an unscheduled stop. The ladies immediately shift gears to find out who punched his ticket, while Sam slips into the driver’s seat to make sure Nana Jo and her crew steer clear of fatal conclusions. (From Goodreads)
I really enjoyed being back at Market Street Mysteries! Only Sam and her Nana Jo could take a trip to Chicago and have someone murdered on their bus on the way home. The setting is perfect, the week between Christmas and New Year, with snow and shopping and even a mystery book store in Chicago. The characters are fun and well defined; I can see at least a couple of them resemble the Golden Girls. The mystery has surprising twists and turns, one in which I couldn’t figure out the real bad guy.
Samantha Washington is a young widow who, after the passing of her beloved husband, opened the mystery bookstore the two of them had dreamed of. Nana Jo, her young-at-heart grandmother, helps frequently at the store, and Sam has regular staff and part-time helpers during college breaks. In addition, she is writing her second British cozy mystery set in 1938 while awaiting sale of the first one. Sam, Nana Jo, and a few of their friends from Shady Acres, Dorothy, Ruby, Velma, and Irma take a discounted trip to Chicago between the holidays that included a very nice hotel room and their choice of a special event to attend.
Irma simply did what she enjoys doing at home – this octogenarian shod in 6” heels goes out to find and flirt with men. At the House of Blues, she met Max, an enthusiastic dancer who enjoyed her company. He decided to go to North Harbor with Irma when the bus turned back toward home. Velma tried to get Max’s attention, and irritated Irma to no end in the process. Sam was curious; she had seen Max upstairs at the Bookmarked for Murder bookstore in Chicago, arguing with a woman and followed by a huge ex-military looking guy she dubbed “Mr. Big”. Now they are both on the bus, and Irma was thrilled to get the seat next to him before Velma did.
The bus driver was not senior-friendly, and finally had to be cajoled into making a rest area stop after hours of delays in snowy Chicago traffic. When they return to the bus, it is locked, and they wait for the driver to return. As they all get to their seats, Irma tries to claim hers next to Max. It looks like he is napping, until she gently shakes him; he falls to the floor, dead.
In a locked-room style mystery, the author gives us several clues and suspects, but it is hard to pin any one of them down! Max turns out to be a popular true crime writer with a tell-all book soon to be released on Robert Kennedy’s 1968 assassination, as well as earlier books showing various conspiracy theories and his solutions. Was his “bodyguard” a publicity stunt – yet, the bodyguard was outside the bus when Max died.
The characters compliment each other well. Sam’s friend Frank is a huge help to her throughout, even though he worries about something happening to her after the last murder she helped solve. I enjoy reading about her beloved chocolate poodles, especially Oreo, the exhuberant 12-year old toddler. I like Sam, Ruby Mae, and Nana Jo best, but everyone in Sam’s family, her staff, and their friends at Shady Acres are delightful. It is fun to watch Nana Jo keep track of their findings on her iPad, and Ruby Mae is the kind of hard-working woman who well deserves the life she has today.
The plot is a roller coaster of twists and turns that introduces potential suspects even as Max’s secrets unfold. When Sam works on her British cozy mystery, it helps her sort out what she is examining for the current mystery even as she designs intricate mysteries and characters. This mystery within a mystery is interesting, one that would be fun to read from beginning to end. I admit; I did not figure out who the killer was and was surprised with the resolution of who killed Max, even though I did have a good idea who did Sam’s British murder. The end is completely satisfying, and I highly recommend this cozy mystery for any time of the year. The snow will be quite refreshing, even in the midst of summer!