Title: Murder Between the Covers (the second dead-end job mystery)
Author: Elaine Viets
Length: 268 pages
Genre: Amateur sleuth/cosy
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My rating: 2.5/5
One-liner: A light, undemanding read
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Helen Hawthorne works for cash at Page Turners, a family owned bookstore in South Florida. The proprietor, Page Turner III, is horrible to staff and customers alike and few people are upset when he is murdered. Helen is forced to investigate his death when her friend Peggy is arrested for his murder and finds that almost everyone who knew Page Turner had a good motive for killing him.
The interesting fact behind this series (which as of this year will run to eight books) is that before writing each book Elaine Viets does the jobs that she describes in the book. She was, according to her website FAQ, a bookseller for over a year before (or perhaps while) writing Murder Between the Covers. I’m sure this is what helps to give the bookstore and its myriad of demanding, (and only occasionally lovely) customers. Having done my share of time in jobs dealing with the general public I found much to relate to in that aspect of the book.
The rest of the book is fairly standard for the genre. Each potential suspect is eliminated, generally via direct questioning, until there’s only one potential killer remaining and most of this was done quite believably although the ending was a little too contrived. There are a series of oddball characters, such as Helen’s purple-loving 76-year-old landlady, Margery, who provided the kind of humour I tend to like in my cosies.
My one problem with the book is that I never quite bought into the Helen character. The premise is that she works for cash because any income she earns officially has to be shared with her ex-husband so even though she’s well-educated she works ‘dead-end jobs’. I suspect that in the real world someone smart in similar circumstances would just get themselves some good quality fake identification and get a better paying job. So there were quite a few points when I thought “well you really don’t have to be in that situation” and so I couldn’t summon up the sympathy I’m sure I was supposed to have.