Monday, November 19, 2018

Review: If the Coffin Fits by Lillian Bell

If the Coffin Fits
By Lillian Bell
Funeral Parlor Mysteries #2
Crooked Lane Books, 2018


Funeral director Desiree Turner deals with death by natural causes all the time. Death by unnatural causes? Not so much. Yet, she and her boyfriend Nate have heard some not-so-dear things about the recently departed. A suspicious remark by the late Frank Fiore’s daughters sparks some concern. And when Violet Daugherty faints behind the wheel of her car, Desiree suspects she’s got a front seat to murder.

Desiree can’t help but look into Violet’s untimely end, but soon after, rumors begin to spread that she’s accusing her clients of murder, which quickly spurs a mass cancellation and Desiree is on the verge of going out of business. What began as an effort to do due diligence for her client turns into a wild goose chase for Violet’s murderer. Desiree must find her proof before everything she's worked for is lost. But that’s easier said than done, because while everyone else in town is looking to take their business elsewhere, the killer sets sights directly upon Desiree.

Now it’s up to Desiree to find the murderer before she becomes the next body her funeral parlor serves.


My thoughts

I don’t know when I’ve enjoyed a cozy mystery as much as If the Coffin Fits, book #2 in the Funeral Parlor Mysteries series by Lillian Bell. This new-to-me author has crafted the most delightful storyline and a lead character that I want to spend more and more time with. Bell’s writing is smooth, filled with snappy dialogue, and flows steadily across the page; not a wasted word to be found here. The sense of humor that comes across effortlessly in the prose makes me wish I could meet this author personally.

Two elements that surprised me personally turned out to be huge strengths. First, the funeral parlor setting and theme, which was not depressing at all. Quite humorous, in fact. Despite the best of intentions, Desiree seems to be accident prone when it comes to her words, which is kind of how she ended back up in the family business in the first place. And then there’s the family, the mystery around Desiree’s dad in particular. Is he really dead? Only time will tell.

German shepherd/malamute mix
The second surprising element is Orion, a malamute and German shepherd mix who instantly stole this cat lover’s heart. I loved his antics, the way he interacted with Desiree and her reluctance to seek a home for him – but when he showed an unusual sensitivity to the needs of funeral parlor clients, I was hooked. The idea of Orion possibly becoming a therapy dog was fascinating.

Strong secondary characters add depth and complexity, as well as possible romantic interests for Desiree. I also loved her easy curiosity and sense that the occasional deceased person might not have died a natural death. Cleverly woven into the narrative are several short articles Desiree has written for her hometown newspaper, the Verbena Free Press. The mystery plot is well crafted and easy to follow, but not easy for me to solve.

If the Coffin Fits goes on my favorites list and I’m eager to read more of Lillian Bell’s mysteries. May there be many more books in this series!

Highly recommended.

Note: There’s some mild profanity that I wish had been omitted, but very clean otherwise.

I received a copy of this book through the Review Crew and Crooked Lane Books. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.


Lillian Bell is the author of the Funeral Parlor Mysteries published by Crooked Lane Books. As Kristi Abbott, she is the author of the Popcorn Shop Mysteries published by Berkley Prime Crime. She also writes as Eileen Rendahl and Eileen Carr.

Lillian lives and writes in northern California.


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