I don’t know about anyone else, but I am having some major Sunday scaries right now. Tomorrow, I start a new job. It is the first “first day” I have had in years, and it is a remarkably different experience because of COVID. To combat the nervous energy by lining up all of my cozy mystery ARCs for some comfort reading. Marty Wingate’s newest series, the First Edition Library Mystery, is just the balm. I read The Bodies in the Library when it first came out and loved it (it inspired me to finally start reading Marple), so when I got approved for the ARC of book two, Murder is a Must, I was overjoyed. It didn’t disappoint. Thank you, Netgalley and Berkley Publishing!
From the Publisher:
Determined to make the First Edition Library a success, Hayley Burke wasn’t expecting to have to solve an old friend’s murder in this all-new mystery from USA Today bestselling author Marty Wingate.
Hayley Burke, curator of Lady Fowling’s collection of first edition mysteries, is settling into her position at the First Edition Library in Middlebank House. She’s even made progress with Lady Fowling’s former secretary, the ornery Miss Woolgar. The women are busily preparing for an exhibition that will showcase Lady Fowling’s life and letters. Hayley knows the exhibition is a huge undertaking and decides, against her better judgement, to hire Oona Atherton, her former boss from the Jane Austen Centre to help with the planning.
Oona is known for being difficult, but all seems to be going swimmingly until she and Hayley uncover a one-page letter that alludes to a priceless edition of MURDER MUST ADVERTISE signed by several Golden Age of Mystery authors. Oona feels this book could be the focal point of the exhibition and becomes obsessed with finding it.
When they find clues that appear to point to the book being somewhere in the First Edition Library, Oona is certain she’s unraveled the mystery and texts Hayley the good news, but upon arriving back at Middlebank, Hayley finds her old boss dead at the bottom of the stairs. Did her discovery of the rare book get her killed or was it some angry shadow from her past? Hayley must read between the lines to catch a malicious murderer.Murder is a Must, by Marty Wingate
What I Loved:
- Oona Atherton. It is sad that one of my favorite characters in Murder is a Must is the murder victim, but there you have it. Oona reminds me of Anna Wintour ala Devil Wears Prada, with a slightly less icy demeanor replaced with brusqueness instead. Like Clara, that is the kind of boss I enjoy having, one who works her ass off and has high expectations of everyone else she works with. Hayley is petrified of her and calls Oona’s appeal “the Oona effect,” seemingly insultingly, but Oona is just highly confident, good at her job, passionate, and thorough. Hayley could use some of that confidence, since she is also thorough, good at her job, and passionate. It really seems to me like Oona got a lot of flak for being awesome.
- Exhibit planning. I know that Lady Fowling is a fictional character, but she feels so real in this series that you become actually invested in seeing this exhibit come to life. A woman widowed young, who spent her life as a patroness of the arts and female writers in particular, who glories in detective fiction and writes in code? Sign me up. Not only is Lady Fowling an easily believable character, but the pitfalls of large scale exhibition planning were also very realistic and painful to watch. Having been in the service industry and helped on multiple events of this scale, there is a lot of planning involved that made this a very relatable read. I wish Lady Fowler and the Charlotte exhibition center were real!
What Didn’t Work as Well:
- Hayley’s Flaws. Gosh, what I mean thing to say. I generally like Hayley as a protagonist – her instincts, when she listens to them, are on point, I love that she speaks with Lady Fowler’s portrait, and she has my dream job. However, she is immensely insecure, dwells on her budding relationship too much, and was clearly one of those guilty type single parents who now has a child that isn’t as mature as she should be at 23. Each new character introduced further highlighted these flaws (Oona’s cool competence, Val’s daughters with great careers at the same age as Hayley’s daughters), and even as she notices these flaws, she doesn’t improve. Hayley herself makes a clear comparison between her ex husband’s gaslighting behavior and Zeno’s, and yet she doesn’t put her foot down when Zeno acts poorly. Her instincts are good but she never listens to her gut, and it hurts her at every turn. It is frustrating to read about a smart woman who self sabotages.
- The Murder Mystery. This is a bit vague, but I honestly loved the set up of the mystery and various clues, and felt that too many red herrings and unnecessarily complex plot points led to a more obvious murderer than it should have. I like being surprised, and found this mystery to be a little dull. The mystery of the missing singed book was much more intriguing and fun.
This is a bit of a short review, but I find it hard to review sequels without giving too much away. Murder is a Must answered some questions I had in my review of the first book, Bodies in the Library, and it was satisfying. This series has a lot of potential, and I feel that the literary setting and references combined with intriguing side characters make the First Edition Mystery Library series worth reading. Pick up your copy of the first book here (in paperback, yay!) and preorder your copy of Murder is a Must for its December 1 release here. This gets four waves from me, because I am rooting for Hayley and love her life even if she is a bit of a git at times.