Murder Outside the Lines
Pen & Ink Mystery #3
By Krista Davis
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
With Halloween just around the corner, the fall colors in Georgetown are brilliant. As manager of the Color Me Read bookstore, coloring book creator Florrie Fox has arranged for psychic author Hilda Rattenhorst to read from Spooktacular Ghost Stories. But the celebrity medium arrives for the event in hysterics, insisting she just saw a bare foot sticking out of a rolled-up carpet in a nearby alley. Is someone trying to sweep murder under the rug? Florrie calls in her policeman beau, Sergeant Eric Jonquille, but the carpet corpse has disappeared without a trace.
Then in the middle of her reading, Hilda chillingly declares that she feels the killer’s presence in the store. Is this a publicity stunt or a genuine psychic episode? It seems there’s no happy medium. When a local bibliophile is soon discovered missing, a strange mystery begins to unroll. Now it’s up to Florrie and Jonquille to expose a killer’s true colors…. (Goodreads)
I have been waiting for Murder Outside the Lines, the third Pen and Ink Mystery by Krista Davis, since I read the previous books in the series in 2018. It is definitely worth the wait. It has a ghoulish Halloween theme, a charming setting, appealing characters, and a slew of mysteries to solve.
Readers find Color Me Read Bookstore manager Florrie, who moonlights as a coloring book illustrator, busy in the days leading up to Halloween. The store’s owner Professor Maxwell comes into temporary possession of a human skull, dubbed Harry, that is creeping out the staff. When guest author and psychic Hilda Rattenhorst claims to have “seen” a human foot peeking out of a rolled rug, Florrie does not know if she is legit or being overly dramatic to drum up business. Soon, however, Florrie finds local bakery employee Manny murdered, rolled in a rug, and partially buried in a neighbor’s flower bed. When Flossie finds her employer’s good friend near death and literally falls on another victim, she cannot help but investigate. Add in ghostly sightings, cemetery tours, festive block parties, and unusual activity involving Harry, and readers have one heck of a seasonal adventure.
I am so glad this series is back (and dearly hope there will be more books in the future). Krista Davis is always a treat. My favorite aspect of the series is the enchanting Georgetown setting. Stately homes in a culturally and historically rich neighborhood with so much within walking distance make a wonderful backdrop to the story’s action and Halloween. Florrie’s carriage house apartment and the bookstore sound divine. Florrie is a great protagonist; she is smart, methodical yet able to think outside of the box, and relatable. So many cozy sleuths are list makers, but I love that Florrie puts her artistic skills to work, sketching the people and events of the day to work through potential clues. The supporting characters are all great fun, and I especially enjoy Maxwell’s butler Mr. Dubois.
There is quite a bit going on within these pages…a burglary/attempted murder gone wrong, multiple murders and other attacks, and plenty of paranormal possibilities that all come together to make a well-rounded, enjoyable puzzle with a satisfying ending. There are several suspects, and with each clue Florrie uncovers, the field grows, making it harder for readers to guess whodunit. I adore the story of Harry that is presently playful and historically important to the rest of the tale.
Murder Outside the Lines is well worth the wait. It can easily be read as a standalone – though I heartily recommend the entire series. Highly recommended for fans of Krista Davis, readers interested in bookstore settings and adult coloring books, and those looking for an autumnal theme.