Arlo Stanley has been juggling preparations for her high school reunion with a book-signing event for a famous local writer. However, her plans are derailed when the bestselling author, Wally Harrison, is found dead in front of her bookstore. The police suspect foul play and all evidence points to one person: Arlo’s best friend and coworker, Chloe. But Arlo knows better and soon she and the other members of the Friday Night Book Club are off on their own investigation to unmask the real killer.
A small town practically oozing charm. Quirky denizens around every corner. A book club hellbent on solving a murder. What could be better?
Author Amy Lillard has crafted a powerful first book in a new cozy mystery series, and much of this success rests on bookshop proprietor, Arlo. Lillard opens on just another day in the world of book selling, with Arlo ready to tackle a book signing. Unfortunately, as is the curse of all cozy protagonist, she immediately stumbles across a dead body and tumbles into sleuth-mode to track down a murderer. Fortunately, she’s more than capable—smart, funny, and inquisitive without making overly rash decisions, she remains grounded enough to think the complete puzzle through.
This results in a mystery that takes some time to ramp up. It’s a slow burn, carefully building a case until the last few pulse-pounding chapters. Arlo does have a compelling reason to become involved. After all, the police suspect her best friend, which doesn’t mesh with her view of Chloe. And there’s already plenty of tension between her and the local sheriff and a private investigator. But there’s a deep satisfaction in her commitment not to unnecessarily rush into things. Rather, after some light discovery and general gossip, the temptation is too great and she knows she has something to add to the case.
However, that’s not to suggest there’s ever a dull moment. Sugar Springs, Mississippi is packed with great characters who populate Arlo’s bookstore, primarily the members of the Friday Night Book Club. An eclectic group, they add some wacky but realistic levity while also adding to the overall mystery—including their own unorthodox investigation methods. Lillard expertly ties every plotline back to the overall mystery, so even the mild side romances and club discussions propel the plot forward. No words are wasted, making every moment worthwhile.
Funny with a solid mystery, Can’t Judge a Book By Its Murder sets off Lillard’s newest series to a solid start.
Title: Can’t Judge a Book By Its Murder
Author: Amy Lillard
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: October 29, 2019
Classification: Cozy Mystery
Note: I received a free ARC of this book through NetGalley.