Monday, 2 July 2012

Blog Tour: Murder on Spyglass Lane

About two years ago now I discovered the cosy mystery subgenre of the broader genre of mystery as a whole. While mystery does not always appeal to me, it would seem that cosy mystery is more my cup of tea! It wasn’t long before I realised that these books often really appeal to me.

Going on the title alone, I was intrigued simply because of another cosy mystery series that I adore where all the titles start with “Murder on/ in…” but at the same time wary because I’ve read other “Murder on/in…” books that didn’t go down as well. So was this going to be a book that showcases a fabulous if bossy heroine with a promise of attraction between her and the law enforcement officer who helps her à la Murder on Astor Place by Victoria Thompson? Or was it going to be an older (50+) heroine who seems to be constantly flinging her cloak on and spends the whole book acting like a jealous teen towards her “crush” à la Murder in Steeple Martin by Lesley Cooke?

It turns out that I should have known better than to even attempt to categorise this book using only these two comparisons!

Title: Murder on Spyglass Lane
Author: J.M. Griffin
Series: The Sarah MacDougall Series #1
Publisher: J.M. Griffin
Target Audience: Adult
Genre: Mystery
Length: Unknown (on the shorter side)

Story: Artist Sarah McDougall flees from New England to Florida's west coast thinking she can escape her unwanted psychic abilities. When she finds a dead body buried under the sand trap on the thirteenth hole of the golf course behind her home, Sarah realizes she was mistaken. She is stuck with an ability that will nearly be her undoing. 

Unable to shake the sick feeling in the pit of her stomach, Sarah turns to her neighbor Raven DeVille, a swashbuckling pirate-like handsome man, for help, only to find he has secrets of his own. The duo investigates the murder with surprising twists that place Sarah in harm’s way more often than she ever thought possible.

Thoughts and impressions: Murder on Spyglass Lane mixes cosy mystery with a touch of the paranormal (in Sarah MacDougall’s visions). The story opens with Sarah suffering the effects on the onset of one of these visions and I’m afraid that for whatever reason most of it just went over my head to the point where I found myself put on my guard. I don’t know whether I wasn’t paying enough attention to what I was reading or whether I missed out on something important in the narrative or what but it actually took me a while to even realise that this was an onset of a vision and not just Sarah being really peculiar.

I warmed up to it all after a little while but I’m not sure I ever really got over that original guardedness regarding Sarah’s gift and how it’s used in the story. The gift itself, though she often bemoans it and its effect on her life in general, is actually very fortuitous as it hands Sarah and Raven (the requisite male with a background that permits him to help out the female amateur investigator present in all cosy mystery novel) several answers that they’d never have got without it. That said, I’m happy that it has a negative effect on her rather than just handing over all the answers with no outward consequences.

Sarah’s amateur sleuthing is joined by the professional sleuthing of her neighbour, Raven DeVille, an insurance investigator, when she comes across the body of a prominent member of local society buried in the sand dune of the golf course just behind her house. There was a slight romance subplot between these two characters throughout the novel – one that I have to say didn’t seem to be all that based on anything. It wasn’t explored enough for me to really be invested in it. The style of the narrative, despite it being in Sarah’s first person voice, didn’t really let us into her head when it came to her interactions with others, which obviously had an adverse effect (for me) on the portrayal of this burgeoning relationship. I often found myself wanting to know Sarah’s reactions to Raven’s actions /words but instead it usually went straight to Sarah’s own vocal response. In short, the narrative didn’t really give me an adequate basis to accept this relationship from either party. I wanted to be shown more, to be led to root for this potential romance.

A huge portion of the story seems to revolve around Sarah walking her dog, Sparky, or thinking about how she should be walking him. This turned out to be quite the culture shock for me as my dog (in France) gets walked once a day and the rest of the time she’s just permitted to wander at will. Then again, our property opens onto unused pasture land, not a golf course, and we have foxes, badgers, deer, and wild pigs hiding in the shadows rather than alligators. I did enjoy the descriptions of Sparky tapping his way around the house, though – my dog’s nickname is Click-Click for a reason!

The mystery itself was a tad on the too direct side. The characters had unravelled it well before the climax – it was more a case of proving the blame than uncovering the culprit. I tend to prefer uncovering the culprit personally, preferably via small hints throughout the story. I also prefer it when the culprit is operating in plain sight but the author has weaved their mystery so tightly that I’m not certain which of the characters it is. Neither of these is present in Murder on Spyglass Lane with the direct style soon leading the reader to a direct answer.

Nevertheless, it was an easy read for a lazy summer afternoon that kept me entertained and didn’t lose my interest at any point. My personal favourites of this book were Sarah’s three golfing buddies – they reminded me of the interactions between my gran and my great-aunt so they immediately appealed to me!

Style: There were some grammar issues concerning punctuation. In some cases the (complex) subject of the sentence was separated from the verb and its direct object! The style was also on the simple side next to other books I’ve been reading lately. It took me a while to get used to it.

Final verdict: A great read for an afternoon in the sun. If you’re looking for something stimulating, this won’t be the book for you; but if you’re looking for a quick, light read, why not give it a shot? 3.5 stars

Extra notes: I think there was some bad language present but it didn’t stick out to me. Sex behind closed doors.

Other stops on this tour:
2/7 Jersey Girl Book Reviews - spot light
2/7 ¡Miraculous! - review
3/7 Bibliophilia Please - first chapter
3/7 Red-headed Bookworm - first chapter
3/7 Bunnys Review - first chapter
5/7 Minding Spot - review
5/7 Melissa's Eclectic Bookshelf - spot light
5/7 Reader Girls - spot light
5/7 Lissette E. Manning - review
6/7 A Chick Who Reads - review


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