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Thursday, November 04, 2021

Cozy Series Opener Needs More Oomph

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When Iris Buckley's beloved grandfather dies, she takes it as a sign that her life is in need of a change. She moves back to Blueberry Cove, Maine, the little town where she was raised by her grandparents after her parents' deaths when she was a child. Not only can Iris keep an eye on her widowed grandmother, but the two women are planning to turn Anne's growing online apron-making business into a brick-and-mortar success. Just as everything is really starting to come together, they make a shocking discovery—a skeleton hidden in the basement of their store. The remains are soon identified as those of a woman who disappeared during a visit to Blueberry Cove in the 1970's. 

As the police deal with the bones, Iris and Anne try to put their grisly find behind them. They don't need any more problems as they try to get their business off and running. To their dismay, another dead body turns up in the shop. This time, it's Elliott Parker, the greedy landlord with whom Anne has been fighting for years. Iris isn't about the let her grandmother get arrested for murder. With the help of her BFF and a handsome unrequited crush from high school, she vows to find the real killer. Dead bodies are piling up in tiny Blueberry Cove—will Iris' nosing around ensure hers is next?

I enjoy a good cozy and Hems & Homicide, the first installment in Elizabeth Penney's Apron Shop Mystery series, had a compelling enough premise to make me give it a go. The apron/linen shop setting is one I haven't encountered before, although I don't know how successful that kind of store could truly be in real life. Cozies aren't known for being realistic, though, so let's just set that aside...the vintage clothing/linen angle is interesting and I actually would have liked to learn more about it. Ironically, the actual details of the business don't feature much in the story. I also like that Hems & Homicide includes an old murder, since I found it much more interesting than the one that occurs during the course of the book. Neither mystery is very original or all that exciting, though, and the story drags because of it. The plot also has some illogical points, like the threats Iris starts receiving almost immediately after finding the skeleton in her shop but before she starts nosing around. All in all, the story is predictable and just not compelling enough. I persevered with the book, but I almost put it down more than once. Character-wise, the novel's cast is mostly likable, although none of the main players has much of a personality. This makes it tough to really connect with them and care about what happens with their lives and relationships. 

As you can probably guess from this less-than-stellar review, I won't be continuing on with this series. I need more dynamic characters, a more gripping plot, and a small-town setting that really comes alive in my imagination in order to become truly invested in a cozy series. Hems & Homicides just didn't do this for me, unfortunately.

(Readalikes: Reminds me of the Merry Ghost Inn Mystery series by Kate Kingsbury as well as the A Writer's Apprentice Mystery series by Julia Buckley)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

To the FTC, with love: Another library fine find


  1. I do love the variety of themes/shops/hobbies that cozy mysteries have in them! Even when the theme needs a little suspension of disbelief to go with it. ;-)

  2. Big mistake to fail on the first book in a series. That can have a massive effect on future sales of the series, but if they can't make the first one work, knowing that themselves, there's not much of a chance that the books will get better.

    Darn those misplaced skeletons...they are always a nuisance.

  3. Too bad this series didn't measure up, Susan. Lots more to choose from.

  4. Sounds like it was a really good idea for a book, but the execution was off. Sorry it was a disappointment.

  5. Oh well, I hope your next book is better!

  6. That's too bad this one didn't work for you as it definitely does sound promising. I think I read the 2nd book in this series and was a bit underwhelmed as well which was disappointing as there were so many aspects of the book I really wanted to love.


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