Death Walked In

Death Walked In by Carolyn Hart. It’s time for a break from historical killers and look at something more current. The Death on Demand series featuring mystery bookstore owner Annie Darling and her problem-solving husband Max has been a favorite of mine for some time. These are cozy mysteries set in the slower pace of the South. Hart does an excellent job of depicting the vivid flora and fauna of the South Carolina sea-island of Broward’s Rock and readers can almost smell the heady perfume of the flowers, taste the salt in the air and hear the crunch of the oyster shell pathways. However, violence too often appears in this idyllic setting and in their latest adventure, Annie and Max must investigate a robbery at their future neighbor’s house that turns into murder.

Maybe I’m just being as cantankerous as Annie’s cat Agatha, but I think loyal readers of the series will be disappointed by this effort. Hart typically leaves hints, some obvious and some not-so-obvious, to aid readers in solving the mystery along with her investigating duo, but in this case, the clues are too easy and much of the suspense is lost. Adding to this problem is a startling lack of character development for a cozy. The robbery is supposedly an inside job, yet readers barely see any of the prime suspects until two-thirds of the book has passed. The story also suffers because recurring secondary characters, journalist Henny Brawley, author Emma Clyde and Max’s mother Laurel are away on a cruise. Hart tries to keep them active and present through the clever use of email, videoconferencing and phone, but only partially succeeds.

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