After Shelby Cox returns to her hometown in upstate New York, she discovers she owns fifty-percent of her aunt’s bookshop, Bayside Books. She jumps at the opportunity, and soon she’s living in a houseboat and ferrying across the river each day to manage their Blye Island location … that also happens to be inside of a castle. However, just as she’s getting into the swing of things, the Castle Volunteer Coordinator is murdered and fingers start pointing toward the caretaker. But Shelby disagrees, and soon she’s off plotting her own investigation.
There aren’t many settings as cozy as a bookshop situated inside of a castle, and author Essie Lang uses this masterfully. Alexandria Bay is a neat lakeside town, and there’s a real sense of community as Shelby bounces around the local businesses and the castle. There’s a nostalgic feeling that can only come from a city devoted to an island tourist destination. Overall, it makes a great backdrop for the investigation, coming across as a town full of secrets.
The investigation itself takes some time to get going, but this is not a bad thing by any stretch. Shelby is a quiet sleuth. She doesn’t put herself into unnecessary danger or really interfere with local law enforcement. Rather, the mystery unfolds as she attempts to make a new way in an old town, and Lang effortlessly doles out clues that Shelby could sensibly discover. There’s an undercurrent of increasing danger as the book progresses, but not because of Shelby’s senseless meddling.
This also allows for Shelby to progress as a main character in a way that’s sometimes missing from other cozy mysteries. Some of her own past is confused, and she struggles finding answers about her mother who passed away when she was a baby. Her Aunt Edie is obviously keeping secrets, and some of the best scenes in the book are these two learning to navigate both as coworkers and family.
There’s a mild bit of romance, a couple of effective reveals, and a whole lot of cozy heart in this first book in a new series.
Title: Trouble on the Books
Author: Essie Lang
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date: March 13, 2019
Classification: Cozy Mystery
Note: I received a free ARC of this book through NetGalley.