Charley Carpenter has poured heart and soul into her clothing store, Old Hat Vintage Fashions. She’ll do anything to make it a success—even join the stuffy Agathas Book Club in order to cultivate customers among Oakwood, Ohio’s wealthy elite.
Although mixing with the most influential women in town has its advantages, Charley finds the endless gossip a high price to pay. But after two women with close ties to the Agathas are brutally murdered, everyone falls under threat—and suspicion. When key evidence indicates that both murders are the work of the same hand, Charley realizes that the killer has arranged each corpse in perfect imitation of crime scenes from the Club’s murder mystery reading list. She uses her membership in the Club to convince Detective Marcus Trenault to use her as an inside informant. Not that he could stop her anyway.
Intelligent, fearless, and every bit as stubborn as Marc is, Charley soon learns the Agathas aren’t the only ones with secrets to protect. Passions explode as she and Marc must race against time to prevent another murder. And if Charley’s not careful, she may find herself becoming the killer’s next plot twist.
Charley Carpenter is willing to do just about anything to see her vintage clothing shop succeed, including subjecting herself to the Agathas Book Club! Make no mistake, Charley loves a good murder mystery as much as the next girl, but the Agathas are cats of totally different colors. Except for her best friend, Charley finds the members of the Agathas tolerable at best and revolting at worst. Trouble is, the members of the Agathas are some of the most prominent and wealthy women in town and their patronage sure does help Charley’s bottom line.
As it turns out, Charley isn’t the only one in town who has issues with the Agathas. On her way to work one crisp, cool morning, Charley stumbles across the police, out in force, manning a crime scene that turns out to be a murder site. The unfortunate woman is related to one of the Agathas and her murder sets into motion a crime spree that will see the Agathas (and the town!) left reeling after five murders, all of which are staged to mimic the murders the Agathas are reading o have read about in their monthly book club meetings. Yeah, someone really dislikes those ladies.
Charley doesn’t have any interest in winding up dead so she begins asking a lot of questions of a lot of people. With every answer she gets, more questions crop up. Her sleuthing also comes to the attention of the local police which gets her into a heap of hot water, both personally and professionally. Detective Marcus Trenault has made no secret of his dislike of Charley and she hasn’t been at all shy about hiding her dislike. Methinks the two dummies doth protest too much . . . . . What Marcus can’t ignore is Charley’s results and though he doesn’t want to work with her, he can’t deny her access to the Agathas is greater than his and people are more willing to talk to a shop owner than a detective.
As Charley gets in deeper with Marcus personally and the police professionally, she finds herself in waters she’s ill equipped to navigate. She must rely on her wits, quick thinking, untapped reserves of bravery, and Marcus to get herself out of trouble and bring a stone-cold, bat-shit crazy killer to justice. If she can do all that without also getting herself killed, then there may just be an HEA waiting for her when all is said and done.
The Bottom Line: 2017 seems to be the year of the cozy mystery for me and I find I am liking this genre quite a lot. The Book Club Murders greatly appealed to me for a lot of reasons and it delivered on most. In general, I enjoyed the premise of this book, the twists and turns, and the vast majority of the characters. What didn’t appeal to me quite so much were the moments in between the action and dialogue. Those moments tend to be very slow and I found myself putting the book down and walking away when yet another of those moments occurred. Since this is my first Leslie Nagel read, I’m not sure if this quality is specific to this book or a part of the author’s writing style. With any luck, this issue will be resolved in the next book and I’ll be able to happily continue on with the Oakwood Mystery series.
Mulbridge House stood, silent and decaying, deep in the woods at the heart of Oakwood, Ohio, long before the passing of Augusta Mulbridge. Yet suddenly everyone in town seems to have a stake in its fate: the greedy heirs, eager to tear it down for a tidy profit; the local preservationists, determined to maintain it as an historic site; the angry neighbors, staunchly opposed to the construction of a modern subdivision. Even Charley Carpenter is forced to admit that her beloved shop, Old Hat Vintage Fashions, could use an infusion of the estate’s treasures.
The clock is ticking. The wrecking ball is ready to swing. All that stands between Mulbridge House and oblivion is one final vote. That, and murder . . .
The trouble begins when Charley walks into auctioneer Calvin Prescott’s office to find her cherished family friend crumpled on the floor. Detective Marcus Trenault quickly connects his death to a string of increasingly violent burglaries plaguing Oakwood. But when Charley uncovers a link to a massive land swindle worth millions, not to mention a drug ring operating out of the manor’s abandoned outbuildings, that theory crumbles faster than Mulbridge House. Now Charley’s racing to catch a killer before everything falls apart.
One would think suburban Ohio would be a safe place to live, laugh, and love. As it turns out, no and Charley Carpenter is once again caught up in the middle of the mess and her boyfriend, Detective Marcus Trenault is once again furious.
To be completely fair to Charley, getting caught up in yet another murder mystery wasn’t he intention at all. In fact, the only two things tying Charley to Mulbridge House and all the drama is a truckload (literally!) of vintage clothes for her shop and the auction house owner, Calvin Prescott. Calvin has been a family friend and mentor for many, many years and to find him dead in his shop is a blow to both Charley and her family. Outside of Charley’s family, Calvin was a well-liked and respected member of the community, a man no one could have possibly wanted dead. Of course, such a heinous act only leaves with Charley with more questions than answers and those questions lead her to Mulbridge House, Calvin’s last project.
It only takes Charley about two questions to figure out Mulbridge House isn’t just a dilapidated old home, but a home at the center of a huge community fight. The heirs can’t wait to tear the old home down and start selling off the land for a ginormous profit, the local preservation group wants it for a museum, and the neighbors and community at large are split down the middle. At stake is quite literally millions of dollars with the players ranging from sketchy heirs, to town planning committee members, to drug dealers, to the actual police, to one vintage clothing store owner with no sense for her own safety or self-preservation.
From the very beginning, Charley is warned by her boyfriend, the DETECTIVE to keep her nose out of the investigation and let the police do their jobs. From the beginning, Charley lies to Marcus and continues to poke around until she’s blown everything wide open, gotten one officer suspended, her boyfriend not talking to her, some bodily damage, and one desperately crazy killer identified. In all, a typical week for Charley 😊
The Bottom Line: I’m beginning to really like suburban Ohio and all the trouble it seems to crank out. Charley Carpenter isn’t always the smartest kitten in the litter, but she has a ton of good intentions and a can-do attitude! Much to her long-suffering boyfriends great displeasure. With the core characters established in the first book and the general scene set, there were fewer slow spots in this read which kept everything moving steadily from start to finish and made me a far happier reader. Of the core characters, there is some evolution and growth; of the secondary (and new) characters there are some expanding story lines that will certainly play out further in future reads. The plot is twisty and turny with just the right amount of action and violence for the cozy mystery genre. There’s no sophomore slump here and I’m ready for book three and Charley’s next adventure.