Wed, Read & Dead
Mystery Bookshop #4
By V. M. Burns
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
Bookstore owner Samantha Washington sells and solves mysteries in North Harbor, Michigan–including the murder of her mother’s wedding planner…
Sam’s mother can’t wait to wed her wealthy beau, Harold Robertson. The big mystery is how they’re going to pull off a lavish wedding in three weeks. Harold’s snobby sister-in-law proposes a solution: engage flamboyant wedding planner Lydia Lighthouse. But their beacon of hope quickly sends everyone into a blind rage, most of all the groom-to-be. So when the maddening micromanager is strangled with her own scarf, it’s a shock, but not a surprise.
It’s a case of art imitating life as Sam pens her next historical mystery set in England between the wars. Lady Daphne Marsh insists on marrying Lord James Browning on Christmas Eve, three weeks hence. But when the fop planning their wedding ends up with a knife in his back, she vows to nab the backstabber before she walks down the aisle.
Meanwhile, when she’s not writing, Sam and her beloved and boisterous Nana Jo rush to shine a light on Lydia’s killer–so her mother’s new husband won’t spend his honeymoon behind bars… (From Goodreads)
I very much enjoyed this fourth book in the Mystery Bookshop series. The author gifts us with delightfully lovable characters, pups that are fun to watch, Snickers and Oreo, throughout, and a mystery full of surprises. It can be read as a standalone or in the series order.
Our first glimpse of Sam is as she tries on several bubblegum pink pinatas – ah – bridesmaid’s gowns in preparation for her mother’s Christmas Eve wedding. One resembles a pinata, another a mermaid’s garb, and Sam wonders how this wedding is going to come together in time. Grace, widowed for several years, is marrying a wealthy, influential man in the community, Harold Robertson. A very loving couple, they only want to make each other happy, so each tries to do what the other will appreciate most for the wedding.
Sam is widowed, the owner of the Market Street Mysteries book store, and the author of a British cozy mystery for which her new agent is seeking a publishing house. She is working on her second British cozy, often writing to think through the events of the day. After her beloved Leon died, Sam quit teaching high school and pursued their dream of the book store. She lives upstairs in the loft, and Nana Jo, her outspoken grandmother, works there with her. They also have a book club, the Sleuthing Seniors, who are a unique blend of mystery lovers who enjoy reading and solving murder and mayhem that simply seems to happen in North Harbor, Michigan.
Grace had not yet met Harold’s family until both families got together to meet each other. Harold’s brother Oscar seems quiet; Oscar’s wife Margaret is anything but. She is very impressed with being a member of the Robertson family, and has to let everyone know how special they are. Keeping in mind the social position of the family, Margaret “gifts” Grace and Harold with the services of Lydia Lighthouse, a wedding planner to the elite.
Lydia may work for the wealthy, but she acts more like someone raised in a barn. She stunned Sam and her family when comparing matching a bride and groom to the breeding and pedigree of show dogs. The family is aghast when Lydia insists that Sam and her sister wear Tartan plaid gowns for the Christmas Eve event, even though they look like the tablecloth and napkins Nana Jo has for the holiday. Even though Grace has selected a wedding dress, Lydia has the latest “creation” from Paris for her to wear, what looks like a gold lame’ lace tablecloth, a bargain at $250,000.
The following day, Grace feels she might not be the right person for Harold because she isn’t rich or knowledgeable about the societal responsibilities expected of them. Harold refuses to hear anything more about it and will take Lydia to task for upsetting his fiancée. Nana Jo, Sam, and Grace go to the venue where Lydia thinks the reception should be held. Unfortunately, Lydia is there with her entourage of providers and upsets the family all over again. Harold comes to warn her, and everyone, that nobody had better upset Grace again. The next morning Lydia is found dead, strangled with the scarf she was wearing that afternoon.
The author has a flair for designing characters who are fun, loyal, every day folks. Their sense of humor brightens any situation, and their love and friendship are evident. The Sleuthing Seniors have worked together to solve a mystery or two in the past, and know each other in that unique, small-town bonding way that keeps them together through the good, bad and hard times. I enjoyed the young people, also, from Sam’s nephews to her employee and the young ladies in their lives. The young girl and even younger brother Sam and her boyfriend found are a great add to the story.
This story is full of creative plot twists that kept me on my toes. It was a wild ride between 1939 England and 21st century North Harbor, with a mystery within a mystery. Descriptions are so clear that one feels part of the story! As the suspect list grew, so did the depth and number of motives. This is a mystery that confounded me; it was a while before I could guess who the bad guy might be. Discovering where the children are from was a mixed blessing as Sam and her family grew attached to them. There are still surprises at the end, making it a novel that is sure to delight those who love bookstores, senior (and middle-age) sleuths, and pups with a healthy dose of wit and intrigue. I highly recommend it!