Knock on Wood
Superstition Mystery, Book #2
By Linda O. Johnston
Author Website: http://www.lindaojohnston.com/
Rory Chasen, now the manager of the Lucky Dog Boutique in Destiny, California, is delighted when her closest friend Gemma Grayfield, a librarian, comes for a visit. But Gemma arrives early and seems upset. It turns out she has broken up with her boyfriend, Frank Shorester. Gemma is soon hired to manage the Broken Mirror Bookstore. Frank follows her to Destiny, where Gemma is also wooed by two local men. Rory may be a little jealous—until one of those men, Deputy Mayor Lou Landorf, turns up dead. Lou is known for knocking on wood for everything, but despite Destiny being all about superstitions that did not save his life.
Rory tries to help Gemma clear herself of being a murder suspect, even counting on her lucky black and white dog Pluckie to help. But is Gemma guilty of murder—or of just having a run of bad luck? (Goodreads)
Knock on Wood is the second book in the Superstition Mystery series and picks up right where the first book, Lost Under a Ladder, leaves off. I do not think it is necessary to have read Ladder but do think it would lend to a better reading experience since there are many references to the plot of the first book. Rory has not decided to permanently stay in the superstitious tourist town of Destiny, California, but she is settling into a pretty comfortable routine as manager of the dog boutique with her new dog and budding romance with the chief of police Justin. She is excited for her best friend Gemma to come for a visit but is surprised when she arrives ahead of schedule after breaking up with her boyfriend. Things turn a bit dicey when Frank, the ex boyfriend, follows Gemma to town and possessively stalks her. Gemma has quickly caught the eye of not one, but two, new suitors, Stuart the publishing editor and Lou the town’s Public Affairs Director. Lou proposes that Gemma, with her librarian skills, should take over as the manager of the local bookstore (its proprietor died in Ladder), and she decides to give it a go. Things soon turn unlucky for Gemma when Lou is found murdered in the park, and she becomes the prime suspect. Rory sets out to clear her friend’s name despite warnings from Justin.
I really like the premise of the Superstition Mysteries, a town that is the “world headquarters of all things superstitious” and a mass of people who believe them. However, this second visit to Destiny left me wanting more. It is hard to determine if the residents really buy into the superstitions or if the superstitions are an easy excuse not to deal with some things or simply scapegoats. I recall enjoying learning about various superstitions in Ladder but did not glean much this time around. What superstitions are relevant here are mentioned repeatedly, and that repetition became boring. There are actually few suspects, and when the perpetrator was revealed it came as a bit of a surprise, not because of clever plotting but because there were few clues leading to him/her.
We still do not learn much about the residents of Destiny, and I think their stories would be interesting reading. However, Rory’s character does grow as she begins to move beyond her fiance’s death, and we learn more about Justin as his relationship with Rory develops. Rory spends a lot of time with her dog (and I enjoy pets in my cozy mysteries), but I found all of the potty walks tedious. Rory’s future is still unsettled, and I do hope that she does not drag out her decisions.
Overall, I enjoyed Knock on Wood but found it to be a weak sophomore entry in the series. I will read the next book when it becomes available and cross my fingers that the shortcomings I have mentioned will be resolved. I recommend this to fans of Ms. Johnston and those interested in superstitions.