A Brooklyn Murder Mystery #1
By Olivia Blacke
Author’s website: oliviablacke.com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
It’s murder most viral in this debut mystery by Olivia Blacke.
Bayou transplant Odessa Dean has a lot to learn about life in Brooklyn. So far she’s scored a rent free apartment in one of the nicest neighborhoods around by cat-sitting, and has a new job working at Untapped Books & Café. Hand-selling books and craft beers is easy for Odessa, but making new friends and learning how to ride the subway? Well, that might take her a little extra time.
But things turn more sour than an IPA when the death of a fellow waitress goes viral, caught on camera in the background of a couple’s flash-mob proposal video. Nothing about Bethany’s death feels right to Odessa–neither her sudden departure mid-shift nor the clues that only Odessa seems to catch. As an up-and-coming YouTube star, Bethany had more than one viewer waiting for her to blfall from grace.
Determined to prove there’s a killer on the loose, Odessa takes matters into her own hands. But can she pin down Bethany’s killer before they take Odessa offline for good?
This debut novel is a solid first in a new series. It includes an excellent mystery with a fascinating description and history of Brooklyn, specifically the Williamsburg neighborhood in which Odessa lives and works. Odessa is defined well, and others are described as needed for their roles. I enjoyed the outrageous humor, especially in a couple scenes. We are introduced to Untapped Books and Café, an independent bookstore that offers a variety of food creations and a rotating offering of craft beers. I enjoyed hearing how community gardens, beehives, and other neighboring concerns are worked together for local products, giving Williamsburg a small-town feel.
Twenty-three-year-old Odessa is from small town Piney Island, Louisiana, and is apartment and cat-sitting in Brooklyn for three months for her beloved Aunt Melanie. The Crawdad Shack back home never prepared her for a café that carries craft beer instead of Bud and a high traffic volume traffic. One thing she is loves listening to true crime podcasts.
Bethany is a social media guru, doing daily café posts on three platforms. She has her own YouTube channel with almost 100,000 followers and an Etsy store. Just before lunch rush one day, Bethany ran out on a “life-or-death” errand, promising to be back before lunch.
When she doesn’t make it back, Todd, the “old” (40 something) manager asked Odessa to make a twitter post. When finished, she sees a post with a “flash mob proposal” heading and checks it out. As a young man was proposing to his lady, something fell behind them. A body? It was hard to tell from the quick view, but it looked like someone wearing the awful neon green polo shirts of the café. Odessa ran to the park and learned the worst. It was Bethany, as confirmed by a unique tattoo, having fallen from the overhead walkway, and she was dead. When Odessa returned to work, Todd told her he sent a text to Bethany to fire her, and Odessa would do their social media posts going forward. He refused to believe that Bethany was dead.
Izzy, the cashier and a friend of Bethany’s, didn’t believe Odessa either until they went to the nearby police station after work. The cause of death didn’t appear to be anything other than an unfortunate accident. Odessa was convinced otherwise – the height of the walkway didn’t seem sufficient, and the oversize alert bracelet she always wore was missing.
The next day, Izzy called in sick. At the end of the day, she was waiting at the door of Aunt Melanie’s apartment with suitcase, backpack, and laundry bag in hand. She wanted to stay with Odessa a few days while her place was being fumigated. Melanie had said no visitors, which probably included temporary roommates, but Odessa finally allowed Izzy stay for a couple days, especially when learning Izzy lives with other homeless people in a closed school building that was being fumigated by the city.
Despite advice from Izzy and the police, Odessa, the true crime podcast maven, began to ask questions. She talked with Bethany’s boyfriend and visited her roommates. The boyfriend was devastated, but the roommates, not so much. She hunted through a summer-hot shed full of reeking garbage bags at the park, trying to locate Bethany’s bracelet or cell phone. For someone who barely knew the woman, she was putting extraordinary effort into it.
Most of the characters are young, in their 20’s, and have a “shorthand” vocabulary. Only a few folks are older, such as the concierge at Melanie’s building. Odessa and Izzy are well-rounded, with interests and talents that they happily share with others. Odessa emphasized that there was no “typical” New Yorker, that most in Williamsburg are friendly and helpful, and she loves it more every day.
The mystery is unpredictable and intriguing. It could be enjoyed by any age, but those in their teens and twenties would best appreciate and understand the characters. One thing I welcomed was a protagonist without a current romantic interest, in part as she will be returning to Louisiana. Nothing against romance, but I did enjoy seeing one woman growing a friendship with another woman, even feeling genuinely happy for Izzy when she started dating the handsome, personable detective. The ending held surprises; while the bad guy wasn’t entirely a surprise, the motive certainly was. I particularly enjoyed Odessa’s presence of mind of how to get help! I highly recommend this first in a new series, especially to the new generation of cozy readers.