3 out of 5 stars ★★★☆☆
Zofia Smith left behind a promising career as a journalist when she realized her former employers meant it when they said, “You’ll never work in this business again.” Convinced by her best friend to move to New Orleans and start over, Zo opened a bookstore in the Crescent City’s French Quarter.
For six years, life was peaceful, enjoyable. Bloody Murder made a profit with its focus on mystery books and its regular patrons enjoyed Zo’s homemade muffins and fresh coffee.
Things changed one morning when Zofia walked downstairs from her apartment above the store and tripped over a corpse, landing in a heap of blood and muffins. The clues the police found included a knife with a Polish eagle and the corpse’s criminal record that indicated he typically worked for a crime family, though not a local one.
Clues came from and pointed to different directions. A narrow miss with a gunshot, mysterious phone calls, and oddly enough to a man Zofia long thought dead.
Bloody Murder is the first in a series of murder mysteries about the quaint little bookshop of the same name. And I can give it no higher praise than that it makes me want to pick up the rest of the novels. Mostly because I like the main character, Zofia Smith, who’s a smart, independent woman, not easily shaken, if a little harsh on her friends and colleagues (Poor James). Zo is a woman who’s loved mysteries her whole life, owns a mystery book store, finds herself in the middle of a real life one, but isn’t content to sit back and let the police handle everything. I can see a little Miss Marple in her, but with a snarkier attitude.
Along the way, there might be details that seem superfluous, such as the info about Baker & Taylor that did nothing to advance the plot or aid in world-building, which is sometimes a side effect of the first-person narrative. You can be inside the character’s head too much, and the plot and pacing slow down. More tension and less Zo going about her daily life as if she hadn’t tripped over a dead body would’ve helped pacing in the first half of the book. But once it got going in the second half, it was an exciting read.
As for the big reveal, it isn’t so much the twist about who the murderer is that didn’t sit well with me. It was more how Zofia came to that conclusion on evidence that was circumstantial at best. The same can be said of how she figured out at the prison who Crystal really was. There didn’t seem to be enough breadcrumbs in the narrative for her or the reader to know that it was as obvious as Zo stated it. Yes, we knew something was up with her, but not to that extent. There were also a few continuity issues, the major happening during Zo’s attempted kidnapping. If one was being held at gunpoint and the other knocked out, how then did they get away and no one knew what they looked like?
Those things stood out for me and probably keep this from having a 4-star rating. Overall, Bloody Murder is at times funny, has intense moments of suspense, and a little sexiness all thrown in. A good read that made me want to spend more time Zo, Michael, and the rest of the supporting crew.