Death by the Book by Julianna Deering
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
It is 1932 and only a few months have passed since the events that turned Drew Farthering's peaceful existence on its head. All he wants now is to convince Madeline, the love of his life, to marry him. Unfortunately for Drew, life throws another wrench in his plans, both by dropping off Madeline's aged, incredibly stubborn aunt on his doorstep as well as a new string of murders that connect to people Drew either knows personally, or knows of through a friend. Drew struggles with Aunt Ruth's disdain and mistrust of his intentions towards her niece, just as he is also dragged back into solving mysteries with the local constabulary. The last thing he anticipated was that the murders, people left slaughtered with a hat pin stuck into their chest bearing a note in Shakespearean script, would slowly creep ever closer to his home. Just as life was returning to normal, mayhem erupts again and Drew must find a solution before people close to him start dying.
There are very few authors I love enough to mentally note their name in anticipation of their next book. Julianna Deering happens to be one of my recent favorites so when the chance came to review her latest release via Netgalley, I jumped on it. And, exactly as I anticipated, she didn't disappoint! Death by the Book is a little bit of a slow starter, which is strange because it begins with a murder, slam-bang right on the first page. But it didn't really snag me fully until I was 50% in, but I blame that more on my distractions and less on Ms. Deering because her entertaining style remains exactly the same as her first book, Rules of Murder. In other words, she's a genius. And once I was able to dedicate lengthy periods of time to finishing the book, I literally didn't want to put it down.
One of the best things that happened at the end of Rules of Murder was Drew's salvation experience. Not that he wasn't a darling to begin with, but it's delightful seeing him run a God filter through his thoughts and actions before saying or doing something in Death by the Book. His salvation experience was genuine, and he did it for himself, not just for Madeline. The attraction between Madeline and Drew grows stronger with each book, which is probably why Aunt Ruth put in an appearance. Although I did find her fears amusing since Americans usually have worse reputations than Brits, but oh well. So, Drew and Madeline have to put barriers in place because the closer they get, the more temptation raises its ugly head. And I love that because it's a representation of real life, of genuine physical attraction. And Drew's resistance to physicality reveals that he loves her for more than just her physical self. It's fantastic.
The mystery itself was a tad confusing for me, mostly because I could only snatch snippets of time here and there to get a chapter read. Once I sat down and dedicated a few hours of time to the book, it clicked into place. I will say that some of the scenes read a little bit like Tommy and Tuppence by Agatha Christie, but that's not really such a bad thing. After all, Christie is one of the greats, and the Beresfords are amazing literary inventions. So, I can't complain. At the beginning I was a little dumbfounded that Drew would find himself embroiled in another mystery especially since he's a gentleman and not a detective or a lawyer or attached to the police force in any way. It made sense at the end of the book but for awhile I just didn't entirely buy Drew's presence at yet more crime scenes when he really didn't need to be involved. I only doubted for about half the book, and was thrilled when Ms. Deering gave her readers a reason behind Drew's involvement.
I think that's what she does best. She makes the reader wonder how something fits, or makes us think something is a cliche, and then she turns it upside down with a brilliant AHA moment. I loved that about Rules of Murder and she keeps some of the same surprising twists and turns in Death by the Book. Plus, faith is a natural element in Ms. Deering's work. It's never forced, always natural, and I loved the sincerity of Drew's faith when we reach the end of this book. Once I reached that halfway mark, and had time to spend, I literally couldn't stop reading. Now, my one regret, is that yet again I have to wait some period of time for Ms. Deering's next book in the "Drew Farthering Mysteries," already titled Murder at the Mikado. Ooh, I hate waiting!
- I received this book from Bethany House publishers via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review, which I have given.
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