It is Wednesday, we have rain in North Texas even though it is August and that means rain is not supposed to happen here, and Jeanne is back today with her latest review.
Treadmill Books: Magical Bookshop Mystery Series by Amanda Flower
Violet Waverly fled Cascade Springs after a traumatic incident in her youth; only the news that her beloved grandmother was dying could bring her back. So imagine her consternation when she finds that not only is Grandma Daisy alive and well, but the whole dying story was just a ruse to get Violet back to help run her grandmother’s bookshop.
And, not so incidentally, assume her role as Caretaker to Charming Books, a shop whose name is more descriptive than one might think. The bookstore has a tree growing in its center which, according to Grandma, has magic properties that have spread to the bookstore. Let’s just say that the shop’s slogan “where the books choose you” is not whimsy. Violet has no intentions of staying but when a man is murdered right outside the store and Grandma Daisy is considered a suspect, she is forced to change her mind.
That’s when the copies of Emily Dickenson’s poetry seem to pop up everywhere. Grandma says that the store is trying to communicate with her. Is the store really giving her clues—or is Grandma playing some kind of mind games?
With the surname Waverly and a tree that seems to toss things at people, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was an homage to Sarah Addison Allen’s Garden Spells, a novel I adore. (The tree in that book tosses apples at people.)
While there were some of my least favorite formulaic trappings (Violet being wooed by two suitors and being incapable of using much common sense in the pursuit of clues are the top two), the use of the bookstore to deliver clues via famous books and authors was fresh enough to keep me enticed. There is a clever bookstore cat named Emerson who is appropriately adorable, and a crow named Faulkner who may also be more than he seems. Grandma Daisy is nicely rendered, though like her granddaughter she can be a bit blithe about things such as being suspected of murder. The two love interests are fairly standard: one is the ex-boyfriend who done her wrong and is now trying to woo her back, while the other is the new chief of police, Daniel Rainwater. Rainwater makes me uneasy because he is Native American and perfect. It’s a bit close to the Noble Savage stereotype and after years on a children’s lit list with some very outspoken Native members, I am more sensitive to that sort of thing. Rainwater is handsome, kind, intelligent, patient, sensitive, obviously attracted to Our Heroine, and protective. He also writes children’s books. I keep trying to convince myself that it’s the Fantasy Boyfriend stereotype instead. There are also some nasty characters whose only function is to be nasty and cause Our Heroine problems.
But as I said, I like the premise a great deal. I love the quotations from the books and Flower keeps the story moving along. Other than her tendency to trespass and chase possible murderers around in the dark, Violet is an appealing character. (At such times I confess I do close the book and roll my eyes. I can read and walk or roll my eyes and walk. I cannot do both. I do give Flower credit for having other characters point out her foolhardiness to her, but of course she doesn’t listen.) Finding out the reason for her abandoning Cascade Springs was drawn out a bit long, but she’s kind hearted and loves cats and books. There’s not a lot of local color, just a sort of Small Town USA sort of vibe.
I rate it as a good treadmill series. There are only two books so far, but I understand a third has been given the green light.