After a day in which I read the entirety of Leighton Gage’s harrowing DYING GASP in a single sitting and then watched the equally gut-wrenching documentary MEA MAXIMA CULPA: SILENCE IN THE HOUSE OF GOD I knew I’d need some light relief to have any chance of achieving nightmare-free sleep. So I grabbed the last remaining unread cosy mystery from my TBR shelves and crawled under my doona.
A DEADLY CLICHÉ is the second in a series set in a small North Carolina town and features a wealthy single woman as its heroine. Olivia Limoges was forced to become self-sufficient at a young age and is a bit of a loner. She has recently moved back to her home town, is enjoying life as a successful business woman, philanthropist and budding writer and is even starting to make real friends. Finding a body part-buried in the sand when walking the beach with her much-loved dog (a particularly intelligent standard poodle) one morning does put a bit of a dampener on things but Olivia copes well, channelling her energies into practically assisting the police investigation. At the same time a member of her writing group is applying for a job with the local newspaper and asks for Olivia’s moral support when conducting interviews with the victims of a string of recent burglaries. As if this mini-crime wave wasn’t enough to be getting on with, the town’s residents must prepare for a hurricane and Olivia receives a message suggesting that her father, who she thought had died when she was a child, is alive.
I’ve grown pretty disenchanted with cosy mysteries in recent years due to the increasingly high gimmick count but this series is proving to be a keeper. Although A DEADLY CLICHÉ is a lighter read than anything else I’ve tackled recently it doesn’t patronise readers and offers good quality writing and character development. For example we see Olivia come to grips with her fledgling friendships but it does not run entirely smoothly as she can still be a bit blunt and unable to see someone else’s point of view. When her friend Laurel is grappling with the notion of getting a job in defiance of her husband’s wishes Olivia doesn’t even try to understand why Laurel is finding the decision hard. While this might not make Olivia entirely likeable it does make her a more realistic character than she’d have been if the author had taken the easy route with her development.
The mystery plot is a decent one, even though it’s not too difficult to see how the two cases will connect and the other elements of the story, such as Olivia’s love interests and the myriad goings on in the town were all lively enough to maintain my interest. At one point there’s a race on boats the townspeople make out of cardboard that reminded me of milk carton regattas I participated in as a youngster and I enjoyed reading about the preparations needed for an area that’s subject to hurricanes. Personally I could have done without the extracts from the books that the members of the Bayside Writers Group (of which Olivia, Laurel and the town’s sheriff are members) were considering throughout the novel but they’re easy enough to skip if not your cup of tea either.
I suppose it’s a little warped to think that a book in which two murders take place is ‘light relief’ but one of the things that characterises a cosy mystery is that all the serious crimes are satisfactorily resolved. And unlike the more realistic crime fiction I spend most of my time with these days, in cosy mysteries powerful people do not get away forever with treating their fellow humans with the indifference normally reserved for insects. Occasionally it’s nice to pretend that the world is not an inhumane and miserable place.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
I reviewed A KILLER PLOT, the first book in this series
Publisher Berkley Prime Crime 
Format mass market paperback
Book Series #2 in the Books by the Bay series
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