The Novel Art of Murder Review: A cozy mystery with Poodles!

Title: The Novel Art of Murder (A Mystery Bookshop Mystery #3)
Author: V.M. Burns
Published: November 2018
Publisher: Kensington Books
Readership: Adult
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Rating: ★★★.5

I received a copy of The Novel Art of Murder from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Mystery bookstore owner Samantha Washington is trying to keep her grandmother from spending her golden years in an orange jumpsuit . . .
The small town of North Harbor, Michigan, is just not big enough for the two of them: flamboyant phony Maria Romanov and feisty Nana Jo. The insufferable Maria claims she’s descended from Russian royalty and even had a fling with King Edward VIII back in the day. She’s not just a lousy liar, she’s a bad actress, so when she nabs the lead in the Shady Acres Senior Follies—a part Nana Jo plays every year in their retirement village production—Nana Jo blows a gasket and reads her the riot act in front of everyone.

Of course, when Maria is silenced with a bullet to the head, Nana Jo lands the leading role on the suspects list. Sam’s been writing her newest mystery, set in England between the wars, with her intrepid heroine Lady Daphne drawn into murder and scandal in the household of Winston Churchill. But now she has to prove that Nana Jo’s been framed. With help from her grandmother’s posse of rambunctious retirees, Sam shines a spotlight on Maria’s secrets, hoping to draw the real killer out of the shadows . .

I’m still new to the world of cozy mysteries, but I couldn’t resist the pull of this cover – I mean, come on, there are poodles on the cover! (My family has a black miniature poodle and I adore him!)

The Novel Art of Murder is the third book in the Bookshop Mystery series – which, full disclosure, is the only book in the series I’ve read. I didn’t have an issue with not knowing previous plot points – the author includes a lot of recaps (potentially too many recaps) of prior books so it was easy enough to figure who all the characters were, where they fit into the overarching story and what their relationships to one another were.

The book opens with Nana-Jo discovering that the lead role in the local senior citizens production has been taken away from her by the flamboyant Maria – a woman Nana-Jo can’t stand and this leads to a loud and public confrontation between the two. Which wouldn’t be so bad, if Maria isn’t later found dead from a gunshot to the head. Nana-Jo becomes the lead suspect and her granddaughter, Samantha, is the one leading the charge to clear her name. They rally their friends in the senior citizens village, as well as a host of other locals, and begin to solve the mysterious death of Maria, and, later, the second body that turns up.

Interspersed with the main storyline is the murder mystery plot line of Samantha’s unpublished work – a British mystery involving Winston Churchill and his family – which serves as a way for Samantha to try and solve some of the stickier plot points of the death of Maria. I thought this was an interesting way to solve the murder and was not something I’d seen before.

The Novel Art of Murder was a fun little mystery with lots of very engaging and dynamic characters. There was a real sense of place and a great sense of ‘family’ between all of these characters who were not necessarily related by blood, but had clearly built strong ties between themselves.

I also really appreciated the Bookshop setting – it made it feel very cozy and bookish, and even having book clubs being run throughout the course of the story was a lot of fun. (I’ll admit, I loved all the Charlaine Harris book references, too!)

What stopped me from rating it higher than 3.5 stars was simply the amount of information that is revisited over and over again. I don’t mind a bit of repetition, but sometimes it felt like I was being force-fed information I already knew and it slowed the pacing down.

Overall it’s an enjoyable read and definitely a book that one could sit down and read with a cup of tea wrapped up in a cozy blanket.

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