ARC Review: “A Curious Incident,” by Vicki Delany

HAPPY NEW YEAR! I think it is safe to say that we were all sick of 2020. There are no promises for 2021, and not much will change right away, but there is definitely a consensus that 2021 can’t be *as bad* as 2020. One great thing that is happening this January is A Curious Incident coming out on January 12! I had the distinct pleasure to review this ARC – thank you Netgalley and Crooked Lane Books! – and it brought joy into the end of the year and new year.

As book six of the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery series, Vicki Delany has done it again. Ever since I had the pleasure of reviewing the first book in this series, Elementary, She Read, I have been a devotee to the series and to Vicki Delany (aka Eva Gates). So, without further ado…


From the Publisher:

It’s up to Gemma and Jayne to root out the killer in national bestselling author Vicki Delany’s sixth Sherlock Holmes Bookshop mystery when the winner of a garden tour trophy is left pushing up daisies.

“I am not a Consulting Detective,” Gemma Doyle reluctantly tells 10-year-old Lauren Tierney, when the little girl comes to the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium to beg Gemma to find her missing cat, Snowball. Gemma might not be able to follow the clues to find the cat, but her dog Violet follows her nose to locate the missing kitten in a neighbor’s garden shed. Gemma and Violet proudly return Snowball to her grateful owner, and Gemma basks in praise for a job well done. But a few days later Lauren is back with ten dollars in hand, wanting to once again hire a consulting detective, and this time for a far bigger job: Her mother has been accused of murdering her garden club rival.


Sheila Tierney’s garden, which everyone said was the one to beat for the West London Garden Club trophy, had been vandalized the night before the club’s early summer tour. Sheila confronted her former friend and gardening partner Anna Wentworth in a towering rage, and the women nearly came to blows. Later that night, after having won the trophy for best garden, Anna is found murdered and Sheila Tierney is the police’s prime suspect.


Despite herself, and despite the disapproval of her police detective boyfriend Ryan Ashburton, the game is once again afoot, and Gemma finds herself and Jayne Wilson using their powers of deduction to ponder yet another curious incident. 


What I Loved:

  • Lauren and Snowball. It isn’t often that we get to see Gemma be “human” – she has a small group of friends and family, but otherwise, she is fairly off putting to other people. However, Lauren and Snowball walked into Gemma’s bookstore, and Gemma immediately took to the pair. Lauren is a delightful kid, inquisitive and loving, who has a rough home life. Gemma rapidly becomes something akin to a favorite aunt, and Lauren loves her quirks. I really enjoyed how Gemma got more attached to this case through Lauren, and the dynamic between the two. I am hoping that Lauren and Snowball make more appearances, with Snowball and Moriarty becoming good friends also. My favorite parts are when Lauren subconsciously begins picking up Gemma’s mannerisms and speech patterns, because it reminds me of my niece.
  • Jane and Gemma’s Antics. I am always a fan of when Jane and Gemma go clue hunting, and this was no exception. Jane is a perfect foil to Gemma: she is warm and engaging, and people take to her quickly. People talk to Jane more than they talk to Gemma. She also lets Gemma know when she is being off-putting or obnoxious. Jane’s character development has also been most fun to watch, and I can’t wait to see developments in the next book.
  • Depictions of Suburban Garden Life. Anna, woman who was murdered is part of the gardening network in the neighborhood, but she also destroyed the main suspect’s flower garden prior to dying. The gardeners in the club are more shocked and appalled by the destruction of the garden than they are by the murder, and soon a phone chain is created to gossip about the garden. This gossip mongering and frankly appalling lack of caring for the dead woman is actually part of what I love about A Curious Incident, since it reminds me so much of actual suburban women and the webs they weave. I also love how Gemma gets to be on the outside looking in with a clinical eye while so many others would be horrified. It was a real display of human nature, like watching the show Weeds.

What Didn’t Work as Well:

  • Ryan and Gemma. Not going to lie, this one hurts to write. I love Ryan, the hotshot detective who challenges Gemma and loves her for her brain, but in A Curious Incident, he fell flat. Ryan was short with Gemma and upset she was investigating the case (par for the course), but he took it a step further. He doesn’t answer Gemma’s calls when she has major evidence, and doesn’t stand up for her at all when hostile detective Estrada threatens to arrest Gemma. This is all despite knowing that Gemma’s evidence is always not only relevant, but often crucial in solving the case. Further, the few scenes where Gemma and Ryan are together and acting civil, the relationship felt different and regressed from the last book, There’s a Murder Afoot (not coincidentally my favorite in the series).
  • The Murderer. I don’t often guess the killer in cozies – in fact, I usually don’t. A Curious Incident was the same, but this time, I also felt like the killer was a bit nonsensical. I wasn’t a huge fan of the build up or reveal, and it felt anticlimactic despite the hint of suspense that permeated the rest of the book. This isn’t a deal breaker for me, but I know for more serious cozy fans, it may be a bigger issue.

Conclusion:

Another fun and engaging cozy with clever hints of Sherlock Holmes peppered throughout, book six of the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery series didn’t disappoint. A Curious Incident could probably be read as a standalone, but I highly recommend starting with book one of the series Elementary, She Read (on sale at Bookshop!) For those of you who love this series as much as I do, A Curious Incident didn’t disappoint! Preorder here and have it at your doorstep in two weeks! Four waves out of five!

2 thoughts on “ARC Review: “A Curious Incident,” by Vicki Delany

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