Happy Sunday, all! Another week, another *slightly* late ARC review (thank you, Netgalley and Crooked Lane Books!) but Amanda Flower is one of my favorite cozy mystery writers out right now (her Scottish magical garden series is amazing!) and I have been reading the Magical Bookshop Series for years now. Crimes and Covers is number five in a series that has been running since 2016, and it is a delight. So without further ado…
From the Publisher:
Christmas is coming to the Western New York village of Cascade Springs, and so is the long-awaited wedding of Charming Books proprietor Violet Waverly and police chief David Rainwater. Grandma Daisy and Violet’s best friend, Sadie, go all out to make the nuptials the event of the season–whether Violet likes it or not. But the reception becomes memorable for all the wrong reasons when a woman’s dead body floats by on the frigid Niagara River.
Violet is shocked to recognize the deceased as a mysterious woman who visited Charming Books two days before the wedding, toting a rare first edition of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. Well aware that a mint condition copy could be worth more than $14,000, Violet told the woman she would have to have the book appraised before she could consider buying it. Most displeased, the woman tucked the precious tome under her arm and stormed out of the shop. Now she’s dead, and an enigmatic message scrawled in pen upon her palm reads, “They stole my book.”
It’s a confounding case, indeed. But fortunately, Violet can draw on the resources of her bookshop’s magical consciousness, which communicates clues to Violet via quotes from Walden. With Emerson the tuxedo cat and Faulkner the crow at her side, Violet sets out to recover the priceless book by solving a murder most transcendental.
What I Loved:
- The Setting. One of my favorite things about the Magical Bookshop series is the beautiful Ithaca setting in a picturesque town and a, well, magical bookshop, and Crimes and Covers is no exception. Set around Christmas time, I can practically feel the icy air, the roaring falls in the background, snowy scenes, and cozy bookshop with the massive tree in the middle and chairs around a fireplace. It is a dream come true. Amanda Flower makes you wish Violet’s enchanting bookshop was a place to go and never leave.
- The Bookish References. Every book in the Magical Bookshop series is themed around a specific classic, and Crimes and Covers is themed around Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. As a native New Yorker, lover of nature, and “banned book” junkie, Walden has always been a favorite of mine. Here, we get an extra dose of history as one of the characters believes they are a descendant of Thoreau, despite his never having had children. Violet’s expertise is in American literature of the time, so hearing all different Thoreau and Walden factoids was fun and informative while not taking the reader out of the mystery.
- The Wedding. It would be remiss of me not to mention Violet and Rainwater’s wedding, as a devoted reader of this series. It was beautiful and, as typical of our two main characters, included a murder.
What Didn’t Work as Well:
- The Murder. Without spoiling/giving too much away, the murder mystery here was intriguing until the end. Then, the murderer is completely out of left field. I was not thrilled how, after all the build up and fun leads into interesting directions, it culminated to where it did. Not the best murder of any Magical Bookshop series installation.
- Violet and Grandma Daisy. I have never really connected with Violet as a protagonist, and never can put my finger on it. She is a literature PhD candidate, a bookshop owner, nature enthusiast, and lover of her pets. However, her inner monologue and quickness to judge people never sits well with me. Grandma Daisy is an easier read – She is nosy and Type A, and I would not be able to deal with a grandmother like her. This series is always weird to me because as much as I love the elements, the main characters have never been my favorites.
Despite my own qualms with the Magical Bookshop series, Crimes and Covers was a delightful installation. It is hard to dislike a series with a bookshop that has a massive tree in it and a resident cat and raven. Here is a series I regularly recommend to cozy aficionados. 3.5 waves (though it is even too cold for me to be haunting the beaches regularly).
If you haven’t checked out this series from the beginning, while not necessary, I highly recommend reading book one Crime and Poetry (pick up your copy here in paperback!) If you are a hardcover fan like myself, grab your copy of Crimes and Covers here (on sale, as usual, with Bookshop).