A Fatal Groove
July 30, 2023

Book Review

A Fatal Groove

reviewed by Warner Holme

Olivia Blacke’s A Fatal Groove is the second in her Record Shop Mystery series. The sophomore novel in a series is often the make-or-break, deciding if a reader will want to stick around. While featuring the amusing locations, well-thought-out edibles, and delightful pets known to readers of the cozy mystery genre, the plot and flavor of this work are entirely that of the author.

Cedar River is having its annual festival celebrating the beloved Bluebonnet flower. Junni, our lead and owner of the Sip & Spin record and coffee shop, has been pushed into helping sponsor the event, only to find the patronage of the mayor and his swift passing afterward leading to danger for not only her business but potentially the lives of her loved ones. Junni works hard to find answers to the question of this death, clandestine land deals, winning a cow, and an old town mystery. It’s a clever juggling act which leaves time for a little intrigue and a little humor in turn.

While the lead occasionally slips a little into the generic feeling that some protagonists can possess, she and those around her remain entertaining and understandable examples of those living in small towns. Petty local grudges, long simmering crushes, and slightly suspicious local politicking all continue to mark the series and its setting.

The love the author has for Texas, at least some fragments and memories such as the Bluebonnet flower, is clear throughout the pages of the book as a reader explores it. Little ways of talking, local festivals, and strange mixes of folksy xenophobia and community togetherness mark this as the work of an individual that not only has experienced her share of the strange mix of traits which can produce a small southern community but lived it. To some who have been through such experiences, it might seem a little forgiving, friendly to minorities or ignoring them in a way that wouldn’t seem realistic or be appreciated. On the other hand, the oddities of a small community, mixed with the good use of humor, result in a believable quirky small community that is either entertaining or relatable in turn, depending on the particular parts of the world one has lived in.

While not the best introduction to the series, it very much serves as a more than adequate volume without reading the first book. Relationships are explained in brief once again when important to the narrative, either continuing or specific to this book. The author hasn’t devolved into excessive explanations or unnecessary continuity, instead leaning into the episodic nature such books often have.

Overall, A Fatal Groove is another nice entry into the series, and suggests it has plenty more enjoyable material to come. The real lived feeling of the community, combined with the characterful aspects of both the people and locations, serves well to keep a reader interested. While not always the most focused of murder mysteries (and having the occasional twist that seems it might take too long), it is certainly an enjoyable example of the cozy sub-genre and very likely to entertain any interested reader.

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