Publisher: Wolfe Johnson (2014)
Length: 373 Pages
Series: Book 1 The Charlotte Anthony Mysteries
Set in Indiana, Charlotte Anthony is looking at having to downsize from her lake-side house to a small apartment in nearby Elm Grove. Her daughter is off in Paris continuing her education. She’s recently become unemployed since the magazine she’s edited for has had to close down. Luckily, her friend Helene has a sister who needs an editor for a semi-autobiographical work. Unfortunately, Charlotte finds her new employer Olivia dead on the first day with plenty of questions to be answered.
It took some effort to get into this book. I liked that Charlotte was going through this major shift in her life. She had become comfortable and then her stability is gone and she has to pare down her life. Yet the paring down part was mostly long lists of things in her kitchen or clothes closet. That was so tedious I almost gave up on the book. The story went on and on about minimalist lifestyle and how to achieve it, why it’s good for you, etc. It was really harped on and while I like the idea, I didn’t need a step by step tutorial on how to get there.
I liked Helene and even Olivia, who dies early on but we have bits and pieces of her life through these notebooks she left behind. Charlotte has been tasked with finding all these notebooks in Olivia’s cluttered house and then editing them into a publishable book. There are several long info drops when it comes to most of the characters. It’s like I was reading the authors own detailed description notes. This made for boring reading at times.
I did enjoy the treasure hunt for Olivia’s notebooks. She would fill each one, hide it (because she had a disapproving and controlling husband), and begin a new one, starting with a clue as to where she hid the previous one. So while Charlotte and Helene (and sometimes Helene’s photography friend) hunt for these notebooks, someone else keeps coming in at odd hours and stealing small items. Olivia’s estranged son Donovan is the obvious culprit but there’s more to it (which I liked).
Much of the book is focused on Charlotte as she goes through this midlife crisis. The murder mystery is secondary. I wanted to like Charlotte but at times the story was really angsty and that kept putting me off. I wanted to sympathize with Charlotte, but I also felt that she repeatedly sold herself short. She has skills, connections, and resources. She’s not that bad off yet she felt like her life was falling into the gutter. She went from upper middle class to average middle class. It felt like a great fall to her but for many folks, her final landing place would be a step up. So the angsty stuff made it difficult to connect with Charlotte.
In the end, I wanted more mystery. I would have enjoyed reading more about Olivia’s life as an author in Paris during and after WWII. The romance for Charlotte was sweet but also an extremely slow burn. I did like the cat that adopts her.
What I Liked: Olivia’s hidden journals; Helene’s character; Charlotte’s core character; the final wrap up; Charlotte’s new cat friend.
What I Disliked: Lots of long info drops; the long, long lists of Charlotte’s stuff (just not that interesting); the often angsty bits.