Darla Pettistone has left Texas behind and moved to Brooklyn to assume ownership of the aptly named Pettistone’s Fine Books bookstore. She unexpectedly inherited the brownstone building, complete with store and apartments, from her great-aunt Dee, and is eager to prove to herself and to the shop’s customers that she is worthy of her inheritance. First on the agenda is an event that her aunt planned months ago: a book signing with the author of an insanely popular series for young adults. Author Valerie Baylor is scheduled to sign books from her Haunted High series, and Darla is looking forward to the excitement and added sales the event should generate.
Darla does not count on the excitement of a death occurring right in the middle of the event, however, and she quickly becomes involved in tracking down possible suspects, working with her tenant, Jake, a former police officer, as well as the incredibly handsome Detective Reese. With Hamlet the cat adding his own clues for Darla’s consideration, details begin to fall into place, and it’s not long before the list of possible suspects has narrowed considerably. Or has it?
It’s at this point that the story drags ever so slightly, as the investigation seems to move slower than it should to keep readers turning pages. Whether it’s a bit too much back story on the characters, or too many false leads, the novel loses a bit of steam about two thirds of the way through. Readers should persevere, however, as this slight lull is short-lived, and as Darla and Jake conduct their own investigation, the twists and turns pick up as the story builds to an exciting and unexpected ending.
Double Booked for Death is the first in a new series by Ali Brandon, a pen name for Diane A.S. Stuckart, who is well regarded for her Leonardo da Vinci mystery series. Although much of the story is based on well-worn cozy mystery situations, from bookstore ownership to a handsome police detective with boyfriend potential, Brandon’s strength as a writer is evident in the plot development and characterizations. Double Booked for Death is engaging and charming, and readers will enjoy meeting Darla, Jake and Hamlet, the cat!