Review: For Whom the Book Tolls (Book #1: An Antique Bookshop Mystery Series) by Laura Gail Black

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Trouble follows Jenna Quinn wherever she goes. Fleeing some unsavory doings in her hometown of Charlotte, Jenna accepts her uncle’s gracious invitation to stay with him in small-town Hokes Folly, NC. In exchange, she’ll help him out in his antiquarian bookstore. But soon after she arrives, Jenna finds her uncle’s body crumpled at the base of the staircase between his apartment and the bookstore.

Before the tragedy even sinks in, Jenna learns that she’s inherited almost everything her uncle owned: the store and apartment, as well as his not-so-meager savings and the payout from a life insurance policy…which adds up to more than a million dollars. This is all news to Jenna–bad news, once the police get wind of her windfall. An ill wind, indeed, as a second murder cements Jenna’s status as the prime suspect in both deaths.

Jenna can hit the road again, taking her chances that she can elude trouble along the way. Or she can stick it out in Hokes Folly, take over the bookstore, and try to sleuth out her uncle’s killer. On the one hand, she’s made some wonderful new friends, and she feels she can thrive in the genial small-town environment. On the other hand, trouble knows her address–and so does the killer, who is determined to write the final page of Jenna’s story.

Source: NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books Rating: 4/5 stars

If it weren’t for bad luck, Jenna Quinn wouldn’t have any luck at all.  She’s flat broke, her car is on its last leg, and she’s just found her beloved uncle lying dead at the foot of the stairs.

Jenna moved to the small town of Hokes Folly, North Carolina for a fresh start.  Her uncle, a widower for many years, invited Jenna to live in his home and help him run his bookstore.  With nothing left to lose, Jenna packed her bags, ready to start again.  Unfortunately, Jenna’s fresh start is put on permanent hold when she finds her uncle dead in his own bookstore.  What’s more, because of her past and the most unexpected inheritance from her uncle, Jenna becomes the prime suspect in his murder. 

Though Jenna knows she had nothing to do with her uncle’s death, convincing local law enforcement is going to be difficult.  Her lawyer, a very sharp and savvy litigator, is having none of the accusations and allegations and advises Jenna to go about her life as best she can until the real killer is caught.  Going about her life isn’t going to be easy as her uncle left a right mess in the bookstore.  First up for Jenna is to hire some help and get the store into some semblance of order.  Next up, get to know the neighbors and learn the lay of the land.  Finally, do her own investigating into her uncle’s murder since the police have no real interest in looking beyond Jenna as the culprit.

As Jenna begins to make a place for herself in Hokes Folly, she also begins to learn of the town’s crazy history.  The inheritors of that history are two aged sisters who own the antique store next to Jenna and while one is polite, demure, and genuinely kind, the other is a bit banana pants crazy.  As Jenna quickly finds out, banana pants is the way of the town and if she’s going to make her home in Hokes Folly, she’ll have to learn to accept a little crazy.  To that end, Jenna hires a young man her uncle once fired for theft and the two whip the shop into shape.  Just as Jenna begins to feel the smallest bit of comfort and accept the reality of her new life, yet another huge monkey wrench is thrown into her plans.  This time, the monkey comes in the form of a formerly unknown heir to her uncle’s estate.

The Bottom Line:  I do love a good underdog story and Jenna certainly qualifies as an underdog.  I am also quite fond of quaint and quirky small towns, and Holes Folly certain meets the criteria.  When you add in a good story with twists and turns aplenty, you have a recipe for a fine first-in-a-series book.  With all the things I like about this series, I also have at least one big reservation, if this series is going to continue and be successful, there needs to be a larger cast of characters.  In this first book, there are a limited number of secondary characters and in cozy mysteries, it is generally the crazy cast of characters that makes or breaks the series.

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