The Book Club Murders
By Leslie Nagel
The Oakwood Mystery Series #1
In a charming cozy mystery series debut, Leslie Nagel’s irrepressible small-town heroine finds that her fellow mystery book club members may be taking their Agatha Christie a bit too literally—and murder a bit too lightly.
Charley Carpenter has poured heart and soul into her clothing store, Old Hat Vintage Fashions. She’ll do anything to make it a success—even join the stuffy Agathas Book Club in order to cultivate customers among the wealthy elite of Oakwood, Ohio.
Although mixing with the most influential women in town has its advantages, Charley finds the endless gossip a high price to pay. But after two women with close ties to the Agathas are brutally murdered, everyone falls under threat—and suspicion. When key evidence indicates that both murders are the work of the same hand, Charley realizes that the killer has arranged each corpse in perfect imitation of crime scenes from the Club’s murder mystery reading list. She uses her membership in the Club to convince Detective Marcus Trenault to use her as an inside informant. Not that he could stop her anyway.
Intelligent, fearless, and every bit as stubborn as Marc is, Charley soon learns the Agathas aren’t the only ones with secrets to protect. Passions explode as she and Marc must race against time to prevent another murder. And if Charley’s not careful, she may find herself becoming the killer’s next plot twist.
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The Book Club Murders . . . how could any reader resist this title? There’s a lot to like about this mystery. Leslie Nagel is a very talented writer and the story is well crafted. Romance plays a big part. I loved the character depth and relational drama. I was hooked from the beginning and didn’t want to put it down.
But this story was different from the cute cozy that I expected. While a few cozy elements are present – small-town setting, amateur detective, quirky characters, murders take place off screen – The Book Club Murders felt more like a traditional murder mystery. And that’s not a criticism, because I enjoy many traditional mysteries and police procedurals. Charley and her police detective Marc are appealing, intelligent characters – and talk about chemistry!
However, The Book Club Murders is promoted as a cozy mystery, and two elements were present that I certainly wasn’t expecting to find in this genre. One, Charley and Marc’s relationship was pretty steamy – nothing explicit, but – well, steamy. Secondly, profanity was frequent and strong, making me quite uncomfortable. This type of language was totally unnecessary and detracted from what was otherwise a great murder mystery.
I loved the backdrop of a community book club and its group of Agathas, especially how their reading list became connected to the murders. Leslie Nagel knows how to spin an entertaining story and I’m sure many mystery fans will enjoy The Book Club Murders. This is a strong debut mystery and my 3-star rating would have been much higher had it not been for the excessive use of profanity.
Leslie Nagel is a writer and teacher of writing at a local community college. Her debut novel, The Book Club Murders, is the first in the Oakwood Mystery Series.
Leslie lives in the all too real city of Oakwood, Ohio, where murders are rare but great stories lie thick on the ground. After the written word, her passions include her husband, her son and daughter, hiking, tennis and strong black coffee, not necessarily in that order.
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Thank you to Great Escapes Tours for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.