DEATH COMES eCALLING is one of those books that makes me wonder about the viability of publishing. That’s not a comment on its content but rather the way I acquired it. Free. Via Amazon. Of course. I used to follow a twitter account that promoted free books for Kindle and would generally download any crime fiction titles that found their way on to the list. Because free. I’ve stopped following the account. I realised I’d downloaded dozens of titles yet rarely been tempted enough to read any of them. And even though I understand the principle – that by giving away one book the author or publisher is hoping to entice readers to buy additional titles – I don’t see a lot of evidence of it that in practice. A lot of people just like free stuff. And I can’t help it…reading these freebies makes me feel vaguely dirty in a way that reading a library book never has. This year I’m making a concerted effort to work my way through these freebies. Read ’em or delete ’em is my new motto.
The book is squarely at the cosy end of the spectrum. Its amateur sleuth is Molly Masters. Molly returns to her home town in New York with her two young children while her husband is posted overseas for work. Soon after arriving an old teacher writes asking her to visit but before Molly can do so the woman is found dead. And Molly starts receiving electronic threats. She is soon embroiled in trying to work out who wants her gone and whether or not the same person murdered her old teacher.
Molly makes her living as a creator of eCards which is the first thing about this book I found a bit difficult to swallow. Like many aspects of the book it is almost believable but not quite there. Surely someone with cartooning skills would be branching out a bit beyond just doing cards? There are other plot contrivances in which the internet seems like a brand new discovery which are plain awkward for a book released in 2013 but make more sense when you know that this book is a re-write of a title originally released in 1996 as DEATH AND FAXES. I remain unconvinced that this kind of updating is what publishing needs but I guess I’m not trying to make a living as a writer so I shouldn’t judge too harshly. Still, it didn’t feel entirely complete (one of Molly’s clients asks for her to design something to help them sell fax machines for pity’s sake and she seems never to have heard of Dropbox for example). The overall plot held together well enough though I thought the culprit fairly easy to spot.
For cosy mysteries to work – for me anyway – the characters have to engage and that didn’t quite happen here. Molly is likable enough as the main protagonist – and I enjoyed the humour injected into her personality via the descriptions of the cartoons she designed – but the rest of the cast are entirely forgettable. To the point that it’s only 3 days after I finished the book now and I’d have to open it to remind myself of any of their names. There’s the best friend next door. The high school arch nemesis. The good but boring guy who’s become the local copper. Collectively I suppose they show some insight into the juxtaposition of our teenage and adult selves but I have to admit I am not a big one for that kind of reminiscing so perhaps I am not the target market for a story with that focus.
In short, the book was good enough to keep me reading to the end but not good enough to prompt me to search out later titles. Which means the free experiment failed, at least in my case.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Publisher O’Kane Inc [not sure of the date of the re-write, c. 2013]
Length 232 pages
Format eBook (Kindle)
Book Series #1 in the Molly Masters series
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