Monday, November 20, 2023

Review: A Book Club to Die For by Dorothy St. James

by Dorothy St. James
Release Date: November 1st, 2023
2023 Berkley
Mass Paperback Edition; 320 Pages
ISBN: 978-0593098646
Audiobook: B0BKP6YWFL
Genre: Fiction / Cozy Mystery
Source: Review copy from author

3 / 5  Stars

The Cypress Arete Society is one of the town’s oldest and most exclusive clubs. When assistant librarian Trudell Becket is invited to speak to the group about the library, its modernization, and her efforts to bring printed books to the reading public, her friend Flossie tags along. Flossie has been on the book club’s waiting list for five years, and she’s determined to find out why she’s never received an invitation to join.

But not long after Tru and Flossie arrive for the meeting, they’re shocked to find the club’s president, Rebecca White, dead in the kitchen. Rebecca was a former TV actress and local celebrity but was not known for being patient or pleasant. She’d been particularly unkind to the book club’s host for the evening, who also happens to be the mother of Detective Jace Bailey, Tru’s boyfriend. And Rebecca had made it clear that she didn’t think Flossie was book club material.
My Thoughts
A Book Club to Die For reminds me a bit of a cozy locked room mystery as we have a woman who is killed in a kitchen, with a variety of suspects and clues available to pursue if you know where to look.  All of the regular characters are present in the book, and while I do find some of them particularly annoying, including Tru herself, the overall mystery was engaging and I always enjoy a mystery that features a book at its core.
First of all, the main characters True and Jace, while I do like them, are kind of wimpy in my estimation. Tru is controlled by her mother while Jace is controlled by his relationship with Tru and some of her behaviours, something that always rubs me the wrong way. And to keep blaming everything on Southern manners and traditions drives me bonkers.  Tru is a grown-ass woman who can decisions for herself and to have her mother constantly nagging at her about what she eats, what she buys at the grocery store, and threatening to come to her house and clean out all her food is annoying. And to have to hide food in your own house from your mother? Maybe I don't understand southern thinking, but really?  And Jace. To threaten someone's position on a force because of your relationship? I did think the other characters were interesting and really enjoyed the relationship Tru has with her best friend.  
I did find the mystery to be interesting as there are book snobs to be found all over the world, and I love how the author includes that in her mystery.  To have the mystery focused around an elite book club was fun, and I definitely enjoyed the irony and sarcasm around the comments in the book about people's reading preferences and styles and what they should be reading.  And I liked how in a small town, such a book club could be incorporated into social status and be used to further one's career prospects.  Philosophical clubs were used this way in the past (elite men's clubs), so it's not surprising to see them used this way in today's society, and the pressure to conform would be enormous.  
The plot moved along rather quickly, and the pacing was even.  Because of the nature of the murder, Jace was not allowed to investigate, so Tru got involved simply because she was there when it happened and people like to talk to her.  The flow of conversations felt natural and Tru doesn't do stupid things like in other books or hinder the police in any way.  I did find the solution to the mystery to be a bit bland, and wished it had been more complicated than it was so I felt a bit let down. The book does suffer from repetition, especially concerning the hidden library, something I still find a little silly, but I do love that cat.  I think the discussions surrounding the use of technology versus the use of physical books to be quite fascinating, but the hidden library thing needs to be better developed. Anyone with an eye could figure out what was going on with that. And I'm still wondering if I should be upset at who died as she was a miserable piece of work. For the life of me, I just could have garner an ounce of sympathy. 
A Book Club to Die For is a light, cozy read that was fairly predictable and did have a tendency to ramble on at times, especially when it came to that secret library.  The characters were typical, no one actually stood out, although I think Flossie's job needs to be explored more as that kind of rankled, and the mystery was light, fun, but so, so easy to figure out.  If you are looking for a light, fun read, then this is definitely for you. 



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