Murder on Tour
By V. M. Burns
Mystery Bookshop #9
Author’s website: vmburns.com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
Bookstore owner and Michigander Samantha Washington is thrilled to see her debut historical mystery finally on the shelves, but a killer seems determined to steal away the spotlight . . .
While Sam wraps up her first whirlwind book tour, Nana Jo has kept Market Street Mysteries running smoothly. The last stop is a prestigious book festival in Sam’s hometown of North Harbor, Michigan. But not everyone thinks the guest of honor, bestselling author Judith Hunter, deserves stellar reviews. Sam witnesses nasty arguments between Judith and two different authors—who accuse her of plagiarism and sabotage . . .
When a publicist is poisoned during a cocktail reception, Sam wonders if the killer missed the intended target. It’s a twist that echoes the plot of Sam’s mystery, Murder at Wickfield Lodge. But fact can be stranger—and deadlier—than fiction. How much collateral damage is the killer willing to risk? With feisty Nana Jo and the girls from Shady Acres Retirement Village lending a hand, Sam tries to solve the case before the festival delivers another fatality . . . (From Goodreads)
It was a delight to visit Samantha, her family, fiancé, and friends in North Harbor, Michigan. I was especially happy to see Sam’s first book baby has been released and she is finishing her first ever book tour! Sam’s British historical mystery, “Murder at Wickfield Lodge”, is the first in a hopefully long, successful series. At the end of her scheduled tour, Sam was a last-minute fill-in author at the annual North Harbor Book Festival held at the local university. She would be on several panel discussions, and on each one, Judith Hunter was the featured author. It was a mixed blessing, as her book would not get as much exposure, but she wouldn’t have to answer many off-the-cuff questions.
Before the first panel began, Sam accidentally overheard a private discussion. It included authors Nora Cooper, Scarlet MacDunkin, Judith, and Judith’s publicist, Clark. Nora told Judith – and anyone else in hearing range – that she knew Judith stole her manuscript that Judith published as “author” of the best seller, “The Corpse Danced at Midnight”. Nora threatened Judith, who didn’t seem very concerned.
Sam’s presence was discovered, and she did what her grandmother, Nana Jo, would probably do if it had been her. She also overheard that she was chosen as a replacement because she would draw a local crowd, and they wouldn’t have to pay for her travel or housing. Dr. Peters, a professor and the facilitator of the panel, would occasionally throw a question to Sam.
On the night of the festival banquet, Sam was there with Frank, her fiancé. They were talking with authors Nora and Scarlet, and met another couple, bestselling author Paul West and his wife, Olivia Townsend, popular middle-school aged mystery writer. Olivia was a delightful conversationalist, loved Sam’s book, and was invested in her characters. Paul and Nora were being encouraged by Scarlet to drink more and more champagne. Rumor had it that Paul had left Olivia, had an affair with Judith, and when he planned to divorce his wife, Judith dumped him.
When Judith and Clark joined them, Paul and Nora were very drunk. Within minutes, Paul was escorted out with Olivia following, then after a small mishap, Clark collapsed, had a seizure, and lost consciousness. Frank asked Sam to call 911, then the detective they are too familiar with, Detective Pitt (or Stinky Pitt to his former elementary school peers). Frank had reason to think the publicist, who died enroute to the hospital, was poisoned.
Sam, Nana Jo and her friends, and even Frank have helped her solve murders in the past. Those were mostly because Detective Pitt, in a hurry to close a case, had accused Sam or her loved ones of murder. They have quite a track record and, when recently helping get Pitt off the hook for murder, he gained a bit of respect for them. He wants her to gather all the clues for him as the university wants the murder solved in two days. He’ll come back, do the interviews and arrest the killer, and … he’ll be happy.
Sam’s writing has a surprising side effect for her. When she is stumped about something, especially a real-life murder, she works on her current British World War II era novel. She loves writing, which has not failed to help her find real life solutions as her characters find their fictional solutions.
The author has gifted us with a variety of well-defined, fascinating characters. Opening a new Mystery Bookshop cozy is like visiting old friends. Sam, Nana Jo and her friends, Frank, and Sam’s family are each unique, and this reader enjoys seeing that, in many ways, their lives are just like ours. Pets, family members, the love of books, all added to the pleasure of spending time with them. The authors we met this time were described as needed for their roles.
The glimpse we have been given of writing and publishing this time has added to my reading pleasure. I very much appreciate the story within the story, the WWII mysteries that Sam writes. There are enough twists and turns in both mysteries to keep me engaged, and guessing the bad guys in both stories was not easy. I actually did figure out a good portion of both solutions, but there was still an element I wasn’t prepared for. I highly recommend this novel and series, especially for those who enjoy cozy mysteries and British historical mysteries.