Guidebook to Murder
A Jill Gardner, Tourist Trap Mystery by Lynn Cahoon
Review: Jill Gardner wanted to escape the life of an attorney in the big city, and has opened a coffee shop/bookstore in the coastal California community of South Cove. She chose the town mostly because of the first person she met when she visited: Miss Emily. When Miss Emily is found dead in her home, Jill mourns the loss of her friend, but is also suspicious of the timing of her death, just after the community sent a letter of its intent to condemn her property, in Guidebook to Murder, the first mystery in this series by Lynn Cahoon.
Jill's suspicions are proven to be true; Miss Emily was poisoned. But would the town council actually resort to murder to get its hands on property it could legally seize? Jill is soon drawn more deeply into the mystery when she learns that Miss Emily had left her estate — a substantial fortune — to Jill, cutting her only living relatives out of the will. Given the change in ownership, the town grants her 30 days to fix the property to its standards, or face the consequences. The house and its several acres of land are indeed in sad shape, but as Jill begins the process of repairing the structure and putting up a new fence around the property, she discovers a cache of artwork Miss Emily had painted in a shed, art that apparently was being stolen piece by piece and sold illegally in the city, and the crumbling foundation of what may have been one of the original missions in California, an important historical and potentially valuable find … but also two more motives for someone to kill Miss Emily to gain control of her assets. When Jill rejects a substantial offer for the property, she soon finds herself the target of someone who is willing to kill to get what they want.
There is a lot to like about Guidebook to Murder, from its well-drawn setting to its intriguing and nicely crafted storyline. But the one element that is hard to like — and it's a difficult one to overcome — is with Jill Gardner herself; she's simply annoying as a person and doesn't seem to exhibit any talent for being an amateur sleuth. She's one of those characters that continually does dumb things even when warned against doing so by her friends, her family, the police, and pretty much everyone else in the story. The first two or three times might be chalked up to being distracted by the death of a close friend or being swept into a situation that seems out of control. But repeatedly putting herself in danger, and suffering the consequences of doing so, gets very tiresome. So, too, does her constant questioning as to whether Detective Greg King is single or not; she suspects he's married but allows him to spend considerable quality time with her all the while wondering why he's not with his wife. There's a simple solution here: ask him! But Jill doesn't go for simple solutions, everything about her is far more complicated than it has to be, and that's probably the major problem here. There is clearly potential for this series, but the character of Jill desperately needs a major recast before moving on.
Acknowledgment: Kensington provided an eARC of Guidebook to Murder for this review.
Review Copyright © 2014 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Guidebook to Murder: California
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Guidebook to Murder by Lynn Cahoon — A Jill Gardner, Tourist Trap Mystery
Format: Trade Paperback
Publication Date: April 2014
List Price: $15.00
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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