Tuesday, March 18, 2014

INDIE BOOK REVIEW: Cozy mystery fans should spend some time with Lexi Graves and Donna Stone

When it comes to fiction, I’m a big fan of the cozy mystery.

I like to be able to sink into a world that is more fun that serious.

Don’t get me wrong, I like serious mysteries, too. But the cozy mystery is always the genre I reach for first.

Recently, I discovered not one but two new series that piqued my interest in the cozy mystery category.

The first is The Lexi Graves Mystery series by Camilla Chafer, which kicks off with the first book Armed and Fabulous.

Lexi Graves is an office temp that inadvertently walks in on the murder of her boss. She’s immediately cast into the midst of a mystery that involves a (hot) undercover cop, a mysterious individual to provide the obligatory third point in a triangle, a family of diehard cops, one petulant sister, one zany best friend and just enough tension to keep the mystery interesting.

While I like Lexi, I do think she has one drawback – and that’s the narcissistic tone her inner-monologue often takes. I think some of that is funny, especially when it’s obvious the character isn’t taking herself too seriously. That’s not the feeling you get with Lexi all of the time, though. She really does feel like she’s all that – and maybe she is.

Still, Lexi Graves manages to be mostly charming and inanely silly at just the right moments. Her excursions with her best friend are really the highlight of the book – although there’s enough romantic intrigue to keep the reader coming back for more.

As much as I like the book – and I do – I’m kind of iffy on the two love interests angle. I’m a big fan
of the device – when it’s done properly. Where it goes off the rails is when a character is making out with two different men (or sleeping with them) in the same day. That’s exactly where Janet Evanovich started to lose readers (Vordo anyone?) in her series.

Build up one relationship and then test the boundaries of it with the interloper. Don’t have the main character lose all of her faculties when a man kisses her – and then do it again an hour later when another man kisses her – and forget everything else that’s going on. It’s a little insulting to women that we can't seem to retain our faculties when a man is kissing us.

Still, that’s a minor quibble in a fun book.

The other series I discovered was The Housewife Assassin Series by Josie Brown. While similar, these books are much, much different from the Lexi Graves series.

In this series, we’re introduced to Donna Stone, a woman who was so crippled by grief five years before that she joined a government organization that kills people to avenge her husband’s death. You see, her husband, Carl, disappeared five years ago on the day of their third child’s birth and – come to find out – he was an assassin that was murdered for his loyalty to country.

So, in an effort to feed her family (and get some revenge) Donna becomes an assassin. Unfortunately for her, as part of her new cover, she has to pretend that her husband is still alive – something the rest of the neighborhood begins to doubt since he appears to be on the longest work road trip ever.

Enter Jack – another agent from Donna’s agency – who takes on the identity of her husband, Carl, and then has to fight the urge to really take Carl’s place in this family when his cover becomes a little too close for comfort.

Did you get all that? Yeah, it’s a little convoluted.

The truth is, you have to suspend disbelief for these books. There’s nothing even close to realism on these electronic pages. When Donna and Jack go on missions, they make the wackadoodle outings on Alias look grounded.

Still, there’s something charming about the story – as long as you don’t look too close. Most readers are going to figure out the twist in the first book of the series – The Housewife Assassin’s Handbook – pretty early on. It’s not hard to see where the narrative is going.
The charm of the series, though, is watching a lothario like Jack fall for an age-appropriate woman
and her family.

As a heroine, Donna is charming when she’s fighting with the other PTA moms and fighting off robbers at the mall. Sure, I sometimes wonder how she managed to pass the psych evaluation to do what she’s doing – especially since she seems to morph into an irrational mess from time-to-time.

I can overlook that, though. You want to know why? The books are fun. I don’t expect realism from them. I just want to laugh and visit another world for a little while – and that’s what both of these series offer.

So, if you like to laugh and you’re a fan of the cozy mystery, these are both viable options.

The Housewife Assassin's Handbook is available for free on Amazon. Follow up books in the series are $3.99.

Armed and Fabulous is available for $2.99. Follow up books in the series are $3.99.


Blogger Josie Brown said...

I <3 U, Amanda. Thank you for SO GETTING Donna! I'm honored you've read her series, and more so, that you like. it.

Josie Brown

March 18, 2014 at 8:14 PM 
Blogger John Scherber said...

Your readers might enjoy a series set south of the border. Murder in Mexico is my series of eleven mysteries set in and around the upscale expat colony of San Miguel de Allende. Artist Paul Zacher is drawn into crime investigation because ‘he might see things differently.’ Maybe it’s time for the rich humanity of Mexico to show through all the narco headlines! Ready for the real Mexico, beyond the phony news reports? Take a look at this suspenseful and often funny series, available in Print, Kindle, Nook, & Kobo. Start with ‘Twenty Centavos’ by trying a sample on my website.


April 6, 2014 at 1:02 PM 

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