Death with a Dark Red Rose

A Writer’s Apprentice Mystery #5

By Julia Buckley

ISBN 9780451491930

Author’s website:

Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie


Writer’s apprentice Lena London is enjoying life in Blue Lake and being newly engaged, but is soon drawn into the terrifying disappearance of one of her closest friends….

Lena is starting to feel like having it all may actually be possible! She and suspense novelist Camilla Graham are busily plotting their next novel and she’s got a brand-new diamond ring on her finger thanks to her fiancé, Sam West. The only blot on her Blue Lake life is a strange new corporation that has come to town called Plastisource. They seem to be intent on gobbling up prime real estate and changing the landscape of Lena’s lovely adopted home.

When she and Sam get a call from their good friend (and Blue Lake detective) Doug saying that his girlfriend–and Lena’s pal Belinda–isn’t answering her phone and missed a date with him, they all head out to her home. The trio is shocked to discover that Belinda’s purse and phone are at her house, along with a single red rose on her countertop–but Belinda herself is missing. Has she been abucted? Could the strange new corporation play a role in her disappearance? Lena is determined to find out and rescue her friend because she knows that the truth can be stranger and much more deadly than fiction.


This mystery is so good! The characters are a perfect blend of endearing, engaging personalities and are well-defined. The atmosphere reflects the drama at any given time, just as the gothic novels do that Camilla, and now Lena, write. The Midwest setting has a distinct beauty at any time of year, including either brilliant fall colors or foreboding, dark trees. The mystery is equally brilliant or foreboding.

Lena London has, to me, one of the best jobs in the world. She has been in Blue Lake, Indiana for almost a year, having moved to work for her favorite author and now mentor, Camilla Graham. Camilla has a career spanning several decades as a best-selling Gothic mystery author. In one short year, Camilla has become like a family member, close friend, confidante, and partner in crime-solving. In turn, Lena is an assistant to Camilla and now her co-author. Lena lives in Graham House with her, has Lestrade, a cat who adopted her, and now, a fiancé.

Sam, a neighbor of Camilla, and Lena met in her early days in Blue Lake. He blossomed from a grumpy guy to a homicide suspect to the love of Lena’s life. They are planning their wedding even as Lena and Adam, Camilla’s gentleman friend, are planning Camilla’s 70th birthday party.

A panicked phone call has Sam and Lena racing over to close friend Belinda’s home. Doug, a local detective who Belinda dates, is going through her kitchen. He came to pick up Belinda for Oktoberfest. Her door was unlocked, her purse and cell phone left inside along with a long-stemmed dark red rose. Not only is leaving everything behind totally unlike Belinda, she would never blow off a date. It looks as though she has been abducted.

It seems to be going around in Blue Lake. A young man, Luis, has gone missing from his place of employment and his home. Luis works for Plasti-Source in nearby Stafford. Those who know him well know he is a loyal, hard-working employee, but management claims he is unreliable. His wife claims they had a fight and she doesn’t expect him home any time soon.

Plasti-Source has had a less than stellar reputation with the EPA at their various factories. They are having a new, ugly behemoth of a plant being built in Blue Lake, and the citizens are concerned about release of toxic chemicals used in their manufacturing process. When police in a nearby town find Luis’ car, empty, with blood inside, they fear the worst.

Camilla is highly respected in Blue Lake as a best-selling author and beloved citizen. One of the best descriptions I’ve seen of her is that if Blue Lake were a kingdom, Camilla and Adam are the king and queen in the castle at the top of the hill. Lena and her friends are close in age, and all look up to and love them. Lena has also gained a reputation, together with Camilla, of solving various crimes in Blue Lake. It is no surprise that they are involved in finding the missing and the culprit(s).

The characters are three-dimensional, so real one could almost see them stepping out of the pages into real life. Because of their multi-faceted talents and close relationship, Lena and Camilla are my favorites. Sam and Belinda are a close second. We meet Belinda’s complex brother, who is also well-defined; I enjoyed getting to know him and hope we see much more of him.

This mystery has many components which may or may not be connected. Plot twists add to the suspect list. There are new faces in town because of the construction of the new factory, some look less than friendly. When a creepy face appears, peering in the window at Camilla’s home, all are on edge, especially after he gets away. There are lighthearted moments with some of the surprises for Camilla’s birthday and seeing Sam’s brother Clifford try to make up his mind about taking out one of Lena’s friends. I was unable to determine the bad guy(s) and had quite the surprise at the end regarding who and why. I was satisfied with the solutions, and no loose ends remained. I highly recommend this novel and its series!

*OBS would like to thank the publisher for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review as part of their ongoing blog tour*