Death at the Door
Death on Demand Mystery #24
By Carolyn Hart
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
Annie Darling—owner of the mystery bookstore, Death on Demand—prefers fictional crimes as opposed to the real things. But in one tragic week, two acts of violence shake the island community of Broward’s Rock. First, a beloved doctor is found shot dead, seemingly by his own hand. Only days later, a local artist is arrested after his wife is found murdered, bludgeoned by her husband’s sculpting mallet.
Convinced her brother did not commit suicide, the doctor’s sister turns to Annie and her husband, Max, for help. She has found a cryptic sketch her brother drew, linking him with the murdered woman. Did someone want them both out of the picture?
With the police considering both cases as good as closed, it’s up to Annie and Max to sort through a rogues’ gallery of suspects to see if someone is trying to frame the artist. But if Annie isn’t careful, she may find herself having her own brush with death… (Goodreads)
The small community of Broward’s Rock, South Carolina, is shocked when a beloved local doctor, Paul Martin, dies of an apparent suicide. His sister Lucy does not think he would do such a thing and implores Annie Darling, the local mystery bookstore owner who has a penchant for investigating, to help unearth the truth. Only a few days later, socialite Jane Corley is murdered in her home with her artist husband’s sculptor’s mallet. This makes her husband Tom the prime suspect in her murder. Annie, along with her husband Max, does not think Tom committed the crime and set out to clear his name and reveal a killer.
I have a real soft spot for Max and Annie Daarling. Death at the Door is the twenty-fourth book in this long running Death on Demand series, and I have followed along with them on all of their adventures. The pair does not really age so it is easy to read these books as stand alone or out of order. If anything, this lack of growth or change sometimes results in the characters being a bit stagnant, but lovely all the same. There are recurring characters such as Annie’s best customer, a local mystery writer, Max’s mother, the restaurant/ferry owner, business employees, and the police force that appear in each offering so it does feel like going home for a visit with old friends. And the setting of a South Carolina island is like a character in itself. Ms. Hart provides vivid images of a wonderful place and people.
As always, there are plenty of suspects and plot twists and turns to keep the reader interested. The suspects include a mistress, a brother and his wife, a personal assistant, a flighty friend and her husband, an art gallery owner, and the family’s property manager. In all, there are three murders, a fire, threats against a pet, and enough lies and omissions to keep Annie on her toes and eventually in mortal danger. This installment, however, did stall some in the middle. Annie seemed to be more of a list maker than she normally is, and she rehashed the list of suspects over and over without much addition or subtraction of information at any point. This ruminating, in addition to the rather dry informational reports that Max put together, became a little tedious at times. However, Ms. Hart’s writing continues to be top notch. For instance, when describing a suspect’s demeanor, she writes “[He was] as antsy as a West Pointer facing an unexpected inspection with porn hidden under the mattress.” (p.211) Ms. Hart is always entertaining.
Death at the Door may not be my favorite of the Death on Demand series, but it is still a strong traditional style mystery with plenty of fun characters and lush ambiance. I look forward to the Darling’s next adventure and recommend this mystery to fans of the series and readers who enjoy a Southern setting and a complex, finely crafted tale.