Series: Auction Block Mystery #1
Published by Llewellyn Publications on February 1st 2015
Genres: Cozy Mystery, Mystery
Source: the publisher
Also in this series: Death and the Brewmaster's Widow
Also by this author: Death and the Brewmaster's Widow
As someone who appraises and prepares houses for auction, Wren Morgan has seen her share of fixer-uppers. But when she arrives at her newest project, Wren is unprepared to find something she can't easily fix--a naked, dead man. Soon after her disturbing discovery, Wren meets Death Bogart, a private investigator and surety recovery agent who's looking for the famous missing jewels of the Campbell family. When it becomes clear that there are actually two sets of lost family jewels, Wren and Death team up to solve not only the mystery of the jewels, but also the naked man's murder. With their case growing more and more complex, though, will they be able to catch the killer and bring home the loot?
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.
If you’re like me, you read the title Death and the Redheaded Woman and immediately thought “death”, as in dying. Well, yes, of course; and the book does indeed leap out of the starting gate with Wren’s discovery of a naked man at the bottom of a staircase. But “Death” also stands for Death Bogart, the other main character in this engaging new series. In his case, as in Lord Peter Death Bredon Wimsey’s before him, Death is a family name, and rhymes with “teeth.” (Good luck reading it that way; it takes practice.)
I wasn’t expecting Death to become not only a main character equal to Wren, but the dominant puzzle-solver, but the partnership works well. Wren is coming off a broken engagement; Death is a veteran of the Afghanistan war, with both PTSD and a physical disability – both of which author Loretta Ross handles well and believably. They are both flawed but likeable characters, and I hope their relationship continues to develop as the series goes on.
I also wasn’t expecting the amount of humor the author infuses into the story, without ever losing the edge of suspense. Somehow she manages to make the villain(s) frightening and laughable at the same time. And she completely snowed me on the murderer for a while. I went with the obvious “unobvious suspect”, thinking I was dealing with a typical cozy-style mystery, and even after several developments, I continued to think that person was involved – until events proved otherwise. Kudos to Ms. Ross; I’m not usually that easy to fool!
The book starts with a figurative bang, and it ends that way, too, with a figurative bombshell that I suspect presages the focus of the second book. It’s not a cliffhanger ending; everything from the current mystery is sorted out. Rather, it’s like those epilogues that end with “To be continued…”, a built-in teaser for the next book.
Death and the Redheaded Woman fits my definition of a cozy, yet it’s a bit grittier and more realistic than many cozies. And while the series is called the Auction Block Mysteries, and the auction theme is prevalent – Wren is an assistant auctioneer, after all, and the mystery centers around a mansion she is prepping for an auction sale – the theme never feels contrived or forced, as in some cozy series. The book certainly doesn’t read like a debut novel, but it is. Altogether, I found Death and the Redheaded Woman a breath of fresh air, and I’m eagerly awaiting the next book.
COYER eligibility: ARC (free)
PopSugar Challenge: A book with a color in the title
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- COYER Winter 2014-2015
- Cruisin' Thru the Cozies 2015
- PopSugar 2015 Reading challenge