reviewed by Gail Byrd
The second in the new Book Lover’s B & B Mystery series by Victoria Gilbert, this has all the elements fans of cozy mysteries enjoy. It takes place in the quaint, Southern town of Beaufort, North Carolina and centers around an engaging protagonist Charlotte, who has inherited a B&B from her late great aunt.
In the first novel of the series Charlotte learned of her aunt’s involvement as a spy, along with her charming, elderly neighbor, Ellen. That knowledge has led Charlotte, along with Ellen, to become something of an amateur investigation team.
While this is the second in the series, this book can be read independent of the first. There is enough background given to establish Charlotte and Ellen’s relationship. Gilbert does an excellent job of weaving just enough of the previous story into this book to explain recurring characters without seeming repetitious. If a reader prefers experiencing how relationships grow throughout a series, they may want to start with the first book, but that is not necessary for the enjoyment of this book.
In this novel, Charlotte has booked an author and her publicist into the B&B for a signing event to be held at her friend Julie’s bookstore. Because the author wants a bit of a break while on tour, she has arranged to spend a quiet week in Beaufort. Arrangements have been made for a public book club meeting featuring the author at the B&B and a book signing at the bookshop. Private events including a tea and a cocktail hour have been arranged for a select group of the author’s fans. The remainder of her time in Beaufort is designed to be a rest period away from the public.
The head of one of the author’s fan clubs has written several pieces of fan fiction, some of which have been singled out as showing excellent talent. During the opening party for the author, Charlotte begins to hear other rumors including questions about the author possibly using this fan to ghost write the next novel in her series. Things get complicated when the body of this same fan is found floating in the water by the docks.
There are several motives and suspects for the murder, including the victim’s ex-husband, a somewhat volatile man who is reportedly now stalking his ex-wife. Also, there is the rumor that some of the fan fiction written by the victim was plagiarized from another fan who published under a pseudonym. Further muddying the waters, the author herself is overheard having an argument with the publicist and the publicist seems to have a history with the victim, although what it is no one knows.
Charlotte is joined in her investigation of the murder by her neighbor, Ellen, who approaches it with some of the skills she developed as a spy. A secondary mystery is the appearance of a young man who is staying with Ellen and claiming to be her cousin. Charlotte is doubtful this is true and questions who he really is and why he is in Beaufort? What does his visit have to do with Ellen and with Charlotte’s now deceased great aunt Isabella?
There are also friends and neighbors who populate the book and help bring Charlotte’s world to life. Her best friend, Julie, who owns the bookstore, her housekeeper, Adele and part time chef Damien, several neighbors who make up Charlotte’s circle of friends and business acquaintances all serve to all depth to the story. While none of them are active suspects in the murder, Ophelia, one of Charlotte’s neighbors, figures into the reason Ellen’s mysterious guest is in town.
Reserved For Murder moves at a steady pace and is an excellent choice for a beach read or an airplane ride. It is easy to put down and pick back up without losing track of the storyline or confusing the characters. Any reader who prefers cozy fiction will likely find this a well-written, enjoyable book and if they like series reads, this offers them the opportunity to experience the books from the beginning and follow along as new books are written.