by Barbara Allen
Kensington Books, New York 2016
[Challenge # 48: A mystery]
I never was much of a mystery reader. I did enjoy a good Nancy Drew back in the day, but post-grade school, I’ve been pretty meh on the genre. I’m not sure why. My mother was an avid fan, particularly enjoying Agatha Christie and the Brother Cadfael series. Another relative, the wife of my eldest cousin, a lady whom I respect immensely, has been trying to get me to read cozies for ages. Cozies, for those not in the know, are contemporary casual mysteries that are genial and personal in tone and often run in a series focusing on a particular business. Thus, there are coffee shop owners who solve mysteries, proprietors of bed and breakfasts, caterers, bakers, etc. Often these books include recipes or advice. I picked Antiques Swap, part of the Trash n’ Treasures series, for this challenge solely because of the cute little Shih Tzu dog featured on the covers, which promised fun.
The series, now running ten books, is about a mother-daughter team of antique shop owners in a small, historic town in Iowa, and it grows and expands with every release as they age, which is cool. The previous adventures are touched back on in each book, which is nice for a reader just picking up the series. Antiques Swap opens as the pair are waiting to receive word on a reality-show pilot they’ve just shot – if a network buys, they’ll hit the big time. But trouble happens when the wife of a local millionaire is brutally bludgeoned to death after the daughter of the team visits her to buy some old beer signs for her shop. The obvious suspect is cleared, but then there’s another murder, and it turns out the millionaire kept tight with some cronies who had a wife-swapping bridge club going on. (Each chapter is named after a Bridge move, which is fun.) Local personalities, including the police, are introduced and/or touched on, and again the daughter becomes involved despite her misgivings. It’s all told in first person and that adds to the readability, the eccentric, ex-actress mother even getting a chapter or two. It was all rather madcap.
It was a quick, entertaining read, but it was a little too casual I guess; the intellectual content was minimal. By that I mean there wasn’t enough for my mind to chew on, whether it was in the writing, the plot, the background, the era, or the general zeitgeist of it really. I didn’t force me to think. This isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it, because I did; it’s just when I read a book, I want to take away from it more than I put into it, if you know what I mean.
Still not a mystery fan, but I’m warming up to the idea.