Ah, Murderous Mondays, you roll around so fast!
This time around I have the first book in The Bookshop Mysteries, set in Canada: Death at the University by Richard King. We received a copy from Netgalley for review and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
For fans of Agatha Christie and Midsomer Murders, A Death at the University is the first book in a new cosy crime series, introducing Sam Wiseman. Sam Wiseman runs an independent bookshop in the heart of Montreal. He leads a simple life – until the day he apprehends a shoplifter and strikes up an unlikely friendship with Gaston Lemieux, the investigating officer in the case. Later, when Sam discovers the body of professor Harold Hilliard – a long-time customer of the store – dead in his office at nearby McGill University, clutching a special order form from the bookshop, he is implicated in the murder. With the help of Lemieux, Sam must investigate the murder, and clear his name.
Sam is an unassuming, laid back kind of a guy – so much so that he is happy to leave the business he owns for hours at a time in order to help the police investigate the murder of one of his clients. While detective Gaston Lemieux does the official business, Sam potters around trying to sniff out leads and find that extra bit of information that may prove crucial to the whole operation. While Sam’s involvement in the murder is dismissed quickly, the body count begins to rise (slightly) and as unsavoury rumours about the deceased circulate, it’s up to Sam and Gaston to unravel the threads and find the killer.
The Usual Suspects:
This one has the quirky aspect of featuring Sam as a suspect early on, but this is put aside almost immediately, which I thought was unfortunate because it could have added some much needed suspense to the plot. Apart from Sam, the murder victim’s colleagues, students and multiple lovers are in the firing line.
The Hunt for the Murderer/s:
Unfortunately, I found this to be tedium itself. There is very little in the way of danger in the investigation and Sam seems to be able to wander into any suspects circle of awareness, ask some questions, get some reasonable answers and report them back to Gaston. The ending is also a bit lacklustre, with only the most minor of minor twists, which I imagine will be pretty disappointing to avid murder mystery fans.
One poison bottle for the friendly warmth and hospitality of a bookshop run by Canadians
This book was a disappointing read. I would say “bitterly” disappointing, but I can’t even muster up enough emotion about it to be bothered being bitter. I was initially excited to read a murder mystery set partly in a bookshop in Canada, as I felt this was an interesting variation from my usual British cosy mysteries. The writing, and, it must be said, the main character, are as bland as the Americans would have us believe Canadians were born to be. There was far too much “telling” instead of showing in the narrative style and while Sam obviously has to have a big part in the investigation, being the protagonist, it beggars belief that a detective would let some ordinary Joe (or Sam, as the case may be), go around doing police work. One would think that this would prejudice the case somewhat.
I can’t really recommend this book simply because there are far more engaging examples of the genre floating around. If you have a specific interest in Canadian murder mysteries however, you might find something to enjoy here.
Until next time,