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Posted October 8, 2012
Ellen Rosings is the slightly fussy owner of a Victorian tearoom in Sante Fe, New Mexico, who finds herself thrust into the role of amateur sleuth when a woman is murdered in her dining room. I say "slightly fussy" because she agonizes over what her staff should call her because she doesn't want them to address her by her first name, claiming she cannot give in to "modern casualness," and also because she is irritated when police officers intrude on her tearoom to investigate the murder because "cops like coffee" and therefore cannot possibly understand anything that goes on in the world of tea, even a murder. A Fatal Twist of Lemon has all of the elements of a standard cozy mystery: a female amateur sleuth, an unusual murder weapon (the victim is strangled with her own strand of lemon agate heishi beads), Victorian fussiness and, of course, tea. Some of my favourite cozies are ones that involve tea and tearooms. This one is certainly good enough to check all of the boxes of things I look for in the genre, but there are a few things that I think could have made it great, instead of just good.
First of all, the murder takes place in the first few pages. There is absolutely no preamble or setup. I prefer a little lead up to the murder, a chance to care about the characters, to anticipate the murder, to get to know the main character who will eventually do all the "sleuthing," and a little scene setting so I can try to guess who the killer might be. This book had none of that, and I really felt the lack of it. I had a hard time connecting to the characters or caring enough about the murder to want to see it solved.
Second, the murder weapon is a heishi necklace, which is probably ubiquitous in New Mexico, where the story takes place, but is not something that evokes an immediate image in my own head. I had to look it up to find out what a "heishi necklace" even was. So I think a lot more description would have been helpful.
And third--and this is a problem for a many a cozy mystery--there is so much attention paid to who had motive to commit the murder but far too little paid to who actually had the means and opportunity. Did any of the other guests or staff actually see anything? When precisely did the murder take place and where was everyone at that time? If no one saw anything, why not? And if the victim was strangled with her strand of beads, did anyone have marks on their hands that would have indicated they'd recently pulled tightly on beads? These are questions that I feel should have been given more attention right from the beginning.
This is the first in what will hopefully be a series that improves with age. It has a lot of potential, but I think this particular entry is good but not spectacular.
For more reviews, please visit my blog, CozyLittleBookJournal.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through the LibraryThing. Early Reviewers program. I was asked to post an honest review (though not necessarily a favourable one). The opinions expressed are strictly my own.