Title: How to Book a Murder (Starlit Bookshop Mystery #1)
Author: Cynthia Kuhn
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Publication date: December 7th, 2021
Perfect for fans of Jenn McKinlay and Kate Carlisle, in award-winning author Cynthia Kuhn’s series debut, small-town bookseller and literary event planner Emma Starrs is out to close the book on a killer intent on crashing the party.
To help save her family’s floundering Colorado bookstore, Starlit Bookshop, newly minted Ph.D. Emma Starrs agrees to plan a mystery-themed dinner party for her wealthy, well-connected high school classmate Tabitha Baxter. It’s a delightful evening of cocktails and conjecture until Tabitha’s husband, Tip—hosting the affair in the guise of Edgar Allan Poe’s detective C. Auguste Dupin—winds up murdered.
In a heartbeat, Emma and her aunt Nora, a famous mystery writer, become suspects. Emma is sure the party’s over for Starlit events, until celebrated author Calliope Nightfall, whose gothic sensibilities are intrigued by the circumstances, implores the bookseller to create a Poe-themed launch event for her latest tome. Throwing a bash to die for while searching for additional clues is already enough to drive Emma stark raven mad, but another shocking crime soon reveals that Silvercrest has not yet reached the final chapter of the puzzling case.
Someone in this charming artistic community has murder on the mind, and if Emma cannot outwit the killer, she and her beloved aunt will land behind bars, to walk free nevermore.
It’s been a long time since I’ve read a cozy mystery, and I wanted to give this one a shot when it was Read Now. I’m going to have a hard time separating my thoughts on the plot of the book due to the formatting the ARC came in – it was extremely distracting and hard to read so my enjoyment was definitely impacted.
How to Book a Murder is set in the Starlit Bookshop, a family business in the Starrs family. Emma is working on improving the business and adding party planning to this list when her high school archenemy walks in needing services. Emma sets up a murder mystery party for Tabitha to celebrate her husband – but when her husband is found dead at the party, Tabitha tries everything to pin it on Emma and her family.
The ending to this book was masterful, I did not at all see the final reveal coming and I was actually convinced it was something else entirely. I love books set in bookstores or libraries, so that was a plus for me. And it’s the beginning of a new series so I’m sure there will more set in the bookstore. But, I really had an issue with the characters. Emma was a wet blanket, a pushover who was sticking her nose everywhere it didn’t belong. And Tabitha was awful – I had some girls I would never want to see from high school again but none would treat me like that. It was over the top.
To recap: plot – yes, characters – no. Would I continue the series? Hard maybe.
Thank you to Crooked Lane Books and Netgalley for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.
Happy reading, folks!