ARC Review: A Sprinkling of Murder, by Daryl Wood Gerber

Hi all! As you can see, I am on a cozy mystery kick. COVID quarantine has been getting to me, and my favorite hobby (reading!) is actually more strenuous despite having more time to do it. That’s why I have been requesting light books in subject areas I am comfortable with – to try and keep my spirits high and my reading consistent. Has anyone else had this problem?

I was very excited to get a hold of Daryl Wood Gerber’s new book A Sprinkling of Murder because I love her older series call the Cookbook Nook and couldn’t wait to check out her new worldbuild. Plus, it has fairies! Thank you, Netgalley and Kensington Books, for this ARC.

From the Author:

Fairy garden store owner Courtney Kelly believes in inviting magic into your life. But when uninvited trouble enters her shop, she’ll need more than a sprinkling of her imagination to solve a murder . . .

Since childhood, Courtney has loved fairies. After her mother died when she was ten, she lost touch with that feeling of magic. A year ago, at age twenty-nine, she rediscovered it when she left her father’s landscaping business to spread her wings and start a fairy garden business and teashop in beautiful Carmel, California. At Open Your Imagination, she teaches garden design and sells everything from fairy figurines to tinkling wind chimes and trickling fountains. Now she’s starting a book club tea.

But the light of the magical world she’s created inside her shop is darkened one night when she discovers neighboring dog-grooming business owner Mick Watkins dead beside a fountain. To make matters worse, the police suspect Courtney of the crime. To clear her name and find the real killer, Courtney will have to wing it. But she’s about to get a little help from an unexpected new friend . . .

What I Loved:

  • Carmel and the setting. Daryl Wood Gerber generally sets her books in towns along the coast of California, and she is damn good at it. Carmel is a beautiful place (I have been there), and Gerber does an amazing job of evoking it: The forests on one side, the sea on the other, the cottages lined up with adorable gardens and fun names – it is all there. When reading this, you feel like a fellow villager, just a walk away from your town and neighbors, the salt air and warm sun on your face. Paradise.
Carmel in its glory (credit: Buena Vibra)
  • The overarching premise. One of my favorite things about the cozy genre is the themes behind each series. In some, the amateur sleuth is a specialty store owner who has a murder committed in her store, in some she is a photographer that stumbles into something, etc. This story was no exception to the rule, but does it extremely well. Our sleuth Courtney owns a shop called Open Your Imagination, where you go to make fairy gardens and other cute landscaping. There is tea parties and book clubs, and the fairy gardens are pure magic. Courtney is a savvy business owner and I would kill to go to this store. Her sleuthing makes sense because she is a suspect in the murder, and she is pushy but doesn’t cross the line like many other cozy sleuths do. I also appreciate that Gerber did not go deep down the rabbit hole of having her date the detective- that trope always felt forced to me.

What Didn’t Work:

  • The mystery. As ridiculous as it sounds, I didn’t feel any sort of thrill or surprise from this murder, which is to be expected in a cozy when the heroine begins to dig. Courtney is doing quite a bit of digging, but she is never in any danger, and the suspense isn’t really there. The mystery behind the murder was intriguing, but I felt that a lot of cool plotlines ended up being tied up too quickly, leading you to the correct conclusion too quickly.
  • The fairies. I hate how much i didn’t connect with the fairies, since my first love genre-wise is fantasy and urban fantasy. However, this book didn’t really do well tying in both the mystery and the fairy sub-world. Fiona is a fun character, without a doubt, and I love the concept that seeing fairies is all about believing in them, but the book felt disjointed, like the fairy plot was overlaid onto the murder mystery and then cobbled together with connecting sentences.  I would love a book on Fiona and her fairy queen, and a separate book on Courtney and her fairy shop – but for some reason, the two just didn’t sit together well. Magical realism or urban fantasy, this was not.

Bottom Line:

I wanted to love this, and I didn’t. While I am a little disappointed, I feel like this might be a “me” problem, and not a problem that the book suffers from. The writing was great, and Daryl Wood Gerber really engages the reader with her scenery and quirky cast of characters. I would recommend this to diehard cozy mystery fans, who would appreciate less drama (both of the dangerous kind and the romantic kind) in their cozies, and I would recommend fairy lovers out there to give this bad boy a try.

Three waves out of five for A Sprinkling of Murder, as a good beach read that you can breeze through.. And even better, it is out in time for beach season, on June 30, 2020! Preorder your copy here so you can have it in time for Fourth of July! If you’d like to read an excerpt, check out chapter one here.