Friday, February 3, 2012

IF BOOKS COULD KILL


Review of IF BOOKS COULD KILL by KATE CARLISLE
(second in the BIBLIOPHILE MYSTERIES series)

If you liked HOMICIDE IN HARDCOVER, the second bibliophile mystery won’t disappoint. As with the first one, Brooklyn not only discovers another body but she winds up the prime suspect in a murder investigation. Confession: I tease people for investing more in the romance element of a story than the primary plotline, but through most of the first few pages of this book my mind was fixated on whether or not Derek Stone would reappear. Despite some steamy flirtations in the last book, nothing substantial happened between him and Brooklyn by the end and it seemed a valid possibility that nothing ever would. The author certainly provides Brooklyn with plenty of other options. However, I’m not revealing if he comes back; you’ll have to read the book and see for yourself.  

Still, you need to be able to let little details go in order to invest in this series. First of all, I struggle to accept that a woman working in bookbinding not only finds herself the center of so many murder investigations but that she’s almost always the one to find the body. It’s probably a matter of taste. I mostly read fantasy, so I readily accept premises involving dragons or mermaids and yet here I am nitpicking a murder mystery for too many murders. It’s easy for authors who make their protagonist work in law enforcement or a related field, but for those whose characters don’t have easy “access” to such situations the reader needs to meet the author halfway and put their skepticism on hold. Second, the first few chapters of the book are packed with Brooklyn coincidentally running into people she knows, one right after the other. At first I found this especially unlikely since IF BOOKS COULD KILL takes place in Scotland, but, after some reflection, I think this might not be so unexpected after all; Brooklyn goes to Edinburgh to attend a book fair and - surprise, surprise - most of the people she runs into are also attending said book fair. Sure, the timing still seems contrived, but it keeps the plot moving along. Last, almost every man Brooklyn knows or meets is described as one of the sexiest men on earth. One starts to wonder how many men can actually hold that title at one point and time.

As crazy as they might be, I do like Brooklyn’s family and her complex relationship with them as a unit and as individuals. I hope we’ll see more of her relatives in future books. Their appearance in Scotland might also seem improbable, but I was nonetheless glad to have them there. As much as they might embarrass Brooklyn, they’re the kind of supportive, loving parents anyone would be lucky to have…even if those same parents do have quite the knack for crashing romantic moments.

I also like the array of characters that Carlise creates. I expect many of them to pop up here and there in future books, hopefully not as victims! The one character that bugs me, though, is Minka. And I don’t mean that she bothers me simply because she’s written as an annoying character; she bothers me because she’s flat. The other characters all have varying levels of depth, but Minka is nothing but static annoying. Also, Brooklyn’s relationship with her seems juvenile, so their interactions usually end up lowering my opinion of Brooklyn almost as much as Minka. I’m crossing my fingers that we'll earn a little more insight into Minka’s catty behavior in future books.

Again, I couldn’t at all predict the murderer, despite more active attempts this time. I made a few different guesses and all of them veered widely off the mark. The ending of this one also satisfies, even though it lacks the bizarre, unexpected twist of HOMICIDE IN HARDCOVER. Like the first book, IF BOOKS COULD KILL wraps up the murder mystery neatly, but leaves some relationship loose ends (especially those of a romantic variety) open for further development in future books.

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