Written by Helen Smith — Winnie Kraster, book blogger and wannabe writer, is delighted when she receives an invitation to attend a conference in London organised by the Romance Writers of Great Britain. Finally, a glimmer of recognition for all her hard work reviewing under the pen-name Tallulah. Little does she know, however, that she will die soon after her arrival.
Young Londoner Emily Castle is not an amateur writer, but she is happy to earn some money, helping out with the organisation of the conference. She has a talent for managing the larger than life writer egos and for smoothing ruffled feathers. She becomes more than a little curious about just how Winnie died, much to the annoyance of the police, who believe she is over-dramatising matters. The eccentric list of characters that congregate at the Coram Hotel in Bloomsbury offer a world of possibilities and motives. Is this professional rivalry? Revenge for a bad review? Or is there something more sinister, even political at work?
If the plot sounds a little far-fetched, that’s because it is. There is something not wholly believable about the motivation of the murderer. Readers may also marvel at the way in which the amateur sleuth muddles her way through the investigation, yet manages to solve it all in front of an assembled audience. Yet this story is not so much about acrobatic twists of plotting, it’s more about ambiance and entertainment. In this respect, the book delivers. This is in essence a cosy crime read, with a delightfully satirical treatment of writers conferences, wannabe writers, bloggers and egos aplenty. I suspect many book reviewers and authors (romance or not) will recognise and laugh at some of the publishing industry foibles, as exposed here.
If there’s a quibble it is that Emily is not fully developed as a character. She is a bit too hesitant, too bland, especially when compared to all of the other colourful characters we encounter in these pages. All crime fiction readers, however, will find this a quick and fun read. Fans of MC Beaton’s Agatha Raisin or Simon Brett’s Mrs Pargeter series will enjoy the humour and slightly surreal quality of this novel.
Thomas & Mercer
CFL Rating: 3 Stars