ARC Review: “Little Black Book,” by Kate Carlisle

Hello all! What a week. I have been cramming at work and cramming my ARCs, two of which are out next week! Little Black Book is from one of my favorite cozy series, Kate Carlisle’s Bibliophile Mystery series. At number 15, this series is still fun, albeit with some minor quirks. But would can’t love a main character who binds books for a living and is surrounded by wine, hot men, and a kitten? Thank you, Berkeley and Netgalley for this opportunity!


From the Publisher:

San Francisco book-restoration expert Brooklyn Wainwright is on the case when a rare edition of Rebecca leads to murder in this latest installment of the New York Times bestselling Bibliophile Mystery series.

Brooklyn and her hunky husband, security expert Derek Stone, have just returned from a delightful trip to Dharma, where the construction of their new home away from home is well underway, when a little black book arrives in the mail from Scotland. The book is a rare British first edition of Rebecca, and there’s no return address on the package. The day after the book arrives, Claire Quinn shows up at Brooklyn and Derek’s home. Brooklyn met Claire when the two women worked as expert appraisers on the television show This Old Attic. Brooklyn appraised books on the show and Claire’s expertise was in antique British weaponry, but they bonded over their shared love of gothic novels.

Claire reveals that during a recent trip to Scotland she discovered her beloved aunt was missing and her home had been ransacked. Among her aunt’s belongings, Claire found the receipt for the package that wound up with Brooklyn and Derek. Claire believes both her own life and her aunt’s are in danger and worries that her past may be coming back to haunt her.

But just as Brooklyn and Derek begin to investigate, a man who Claire thinks was following her is found murdered, stabbed with a priceless jeweled dagger. With a death on their doorstep, Brooklyn and Derek page through the little black book, where they discover clues that will take them to the shadows of a medieval Scottish castle on the shores of Loch Ness. Under the watchful gaze of a mysterious laird and the irascible villagers who are suspicious of the strangers in their midst, Brooklyn and Derek must decode the secrets in Rebecca to keep their friend’s past from destroying their future….


What I Loved:

  • Clair Quinn. Clair is a friend of Brooklyn’s that is an ancient weapons expert. She is a fiery redhead who faces her demons head on and who has a devotion to finding her missing aunt. I loved Clair’s adaptability and how she just accepted the dangers she faced to save her aunt. I also loved Clair’s ferocity with ancient axes and throwing knives. I hope this isn’t the last time we see Clair Quinn!
  • The Gothic Elements. I love love love gothics. New gothics, old gothics, give me a dark and stormy night and a creaking castle with hidden towers and the damsel heroine who finds love. Little Black Book starts with a murder over a book like every other Bibliophile mystery, but this one happens to be Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. When the murder brings Brooklyn, Clair, and Derek to Scotland, we get the drafty Scottish castle with views of the loch, a grimacing lord who may or may not be up to no good, and the trademark damsel… but don’t be surprised if this one saves herself in the end.

What Didn’t Work for Me:

  • The Mystery. I am all for a fun, implausible cozy mystery, but this one stretched the bounds a little bit for me. The murder mystery itself was fairly straightforward, but the plot with Clair’s missing Aunt Gwyn who Derek *happens* to know, and the decades long family feud was all a bit much. I was able to follow the threads of the plot until the end when pandemonium broke loose. However, the murder mystery on its face was still enjoyable to work through.
  • Brooklyn and Derek. This is a standard gripe for me at this point, but it remains – Brooklyn is obsessed with Derek. I get it, he is her husband, he is sexy, and he is all powerful / all knowing. But the two of them have this lovey dovey dynamic where the other can’t do anything wrong, and it is too much. Unfortunately, the “too good to be true” trope spills over into most of the characters, who are all incredibly good looking, the best in their fields, and don’t have a single personality flaw except being too good. Even for a cozy, this is a bit much.

Conclusion:

This review is a bit short, because I have a hard time writing reviews for a series I am too “close” to. I am a pretty devoted Kate Carlisle reader despite the flaws, and find it a bit hard to stay unbiased. While Little Black Book wasn’t one of my favorites in the Bibliophile series, it is still a great installation to an amazing series. 3.5 stars out of 5! Preorder your copy here for the June 29th release to bring to the beach, or if you a newbie to the Bibliophile Mystery series, buy book one here (Homicide in Hardcover, one of the books that broke me into the cozy genre!) On sale at Bookshop, and in paperback to boot!

4 thoughts on “ARC Review: “Little Black Book,” by Kate Carlisle

      1. Iris Johansen’s ‘Eve Duncan’ series is at 27. I understand the fatigue and some are definitely worth it!
        I usually like longer series.. but I’m currently enjoying the lack of commitment with standalones. 🤭

        Liked by 1 person

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