Thursday, April 17, 2014

Book Review: Death by the Book by Julianna Deering

If you know me very well, you know that I love to listen to Old Time Radio shows.  I've been listening to them on satellite radio since I was a teenager.  Maybe that's why I was drawn to this book.  It has a radio-detective kind of feel about it.  It seemed like "Mr. and Mrs. North" meet "Sam  Spade" to me.  (Mr. and Mrs. North being a young married couple who somehow accidently stumbled upon a crime every week and solved it.)  Let me just say that I HATE when police officers are made to look like bumbling idiots, while ordinary civilians or private investigators solve all their crimes.  At first I thought that's how this would turn out, but, thankfully, I was wrong!
Although I didn't realize it when I requested this book for reviewing, Death by the Book is the second in the Drew Farthering Mystery series.  It is set in a small English village in the thirties.  I missed out on some important info by not reading the first book first, but I think I figured out that Drew Farthering is the master of an estate left to him by his stepfather, who was murdered in book one.  He is in love with Madeline, who came to visit her uncle (Drew's stepfather) in the first book, and has stayed on since his death.  Nick Dennison is Drew's close friend, and is in training to take over running the estate when the current caretaker retires.  His father, Denny, is the butler.  It seems that Drew and Madeline worked together in the first book to help solve the murder of his stepfather and stepmother, and so some in the village consider Drew to be an amateur detective.  He, however, doesn't see himself that way and would rather just go about his business of being a rich boy who reads murder mysteries.
The book opens with the murder of Drew's lawyer, Mr. Montford, in a hotel room.  His body is found with a cryptic note pinned to his chest with a hatpin.  Three other murders follow in the next several days.  A local doctor is murdered on a golf course, a young woman is poisoned in her cottage and a visiting American is strangled in a cottage on Drew's estate.  Each one has a note pinned to their bodies with a line from Shakespeare written on it, that seems to point to the reason for their death.  Several suspects are brought to light, but none that could have committed all fours murders.
Mr. Montford's widow asks Drew to look into her husband's death, and to prove that he wasn't having an affair.  Although Drew is reluctant to be drawn into another investigation, he agrees.  Things get more complicated as the murders seem to be getting closer to home for him.  The chief inspector is good enough to let Drew in on much of the investigation, with the exception that he will tell the police anything he happens to find out.  I did like the fact that whenever Drew found something out and told the police, they already knew it, and had investigated it.  No bumbling policemen here!  When the murderer is finally found, it makes sense why Drew was drawn into the fray in the first place, but I won't give away the ending.  I came to the same conclusion as Drew did, but we both ended up surprised at the outcome! 
I did enjoy this book.  I thought parts of it were a little far-fetched for the time period, including references to abortion and illegal adoption, but for the most part the author made it all seem plausible.  I haven't read anything by Julianna Deering before, (Julianna Deering is a pen name for DeAnna Julie Dodson, who I have also never read.) but I think if I have the opportunity, I will read her books again.    
This is a detective story, plain and simple; it isn't dark or scary.  Even though it does have murders, it doesn't feel like a "this could happen to you," kind of story.  Maybe that's what I liked about it.  Drew is a lovable character, even though he's really just a rich boy with too much time on his hands.  I hope to read the third book, Murder at the Micado when it comes out this summer, but I think I'll backtrack and read book one Rules of Murder before I go any further.  (I love those titles!  They sound like they're straight from an old radio program!)  If you're like me and you like your detectives straight out of an old black-and-white film, or coming to you over the airwaves once a week, give Julianna Deering and Drew Farthering a try!

Happy Reading!

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my review.  All opinions are my own. 

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