The First Starlit Bookshop Mystery
Although she has her PhD, Emma Starrs has returned home to help her sister run their family bookstore, Starlit Books. The bookshop is in dire financial straights, so when mean girl, now rich mean woman, Tabitha Baxter comes in bemoaning the fact that her event planner quit, Emma offers to step in. Hoping to get referrals, as well as a healthy chunk of change, Emma organizes the murder mystery portion of the party. The event goes off seamlessly, until Tabitha's husband is found murdered. Now Tabitha is threatening Emma and Nora has become a prime suspect.
HOW TO BOOK A MURDER is a book about cliques. Mean girls grown up, academic colleagues, businessmen, and friends all have their own hierarchy and the first Starlit Bookshop mystery shows what can happen when people break rank. Emma makes a fine protagonist. She's down to earth, has her own foibles, but does what it takes to help her family and her books. I appreciate the view of academia as well, especially how it ties in with writers. It also makes me glad I didn't choose that career path!
I can't stand Tabitha and people of her ilk and am amazed by the power she holds in that town. Although her arranged protest did make me laugh, for the most part I just wanted to see her taken down a notch or two. My favorite character was Calliope. She may be demanding, perhaps exacting is a better word, but she gets amazing results. And she's fun! I hope we see more of her in future books.
While I enjoyed the story on the whole, the mystery itself was a bit convoluted. The basic reason for the murders made sense, but the reasons leading up to it were overcomplicated and the explanation read more like a thesis defense. Still, I enjoyed reading it and look forward to seeing how Emma's event planning will lead to more murders.
HOW TO BOOK A MURDER takes on mean girls and murder in a solid start to a new series.
How to Book a Murder (A Starlit Bookshop Mystery) by Cynthia Kuhn
About How to Book a Murder
Cozy Mystery 1st in Series
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books (December 7, 2021)
Hardcover : 336 pages
Perfect for fans of Jenn McKinlay and Kate Carlisle, in award-winning author Cynthia Kuhn’s series debut, small-town bookseller and literary event planner Emma Starrs is out to close the book on a killer intent on crashing the party.
To help save her family’s floundering Colorado bookstore, Starlit Bookshop, newly minted Ph.D. Emma Starrs agrees to plan a mystery-themed dinner party for her wealthy, well-connected high school classmate Tabitha Baxter. It’s a delightful evening of cocktails and conjecture until Tabitha’s husband, Tip—hosting the affair in the guise of Edgar Allan Poe’s detective C. Auguste Dupin—winds up murdered.
In a heartbeat, Emma and her aunt Nora, a famous mystery writer, become suspects. Emma is sure the party’s over for Starlit events, until celebrated author Calliope Nightfall, whose gothic sensibilities are intrigued by the circumstances, implores the bookseller to create a Poe-themed launch event for her latest tome. Throwing a bash to die for while searching for additional clues is already enough to drive Emma stark raven mad, but another shocking crime soon reveals that Silvercrest has not yet reached the final chapter of the puzzling case.
Someone in this charming artistic community has murder on the mind, and if Emma cannot outwit the killer, she and her beloved aunt will land behind bars, to walk free nevermore.
About Cynthia Kuhn
Cynthia Kuhn is an English professor and author of the Starlit Bookshop Mysteries and the Lila Maclean Academic Mysteries. Her work has also appeared in Mystery Most Edible, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Copper Nickel, Prick of the Spindle, Mama PhD, and other publications. Honors include an Agatha Award, a William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grant, and Lefty Award nominations. Originally from upstate New York, she lives in Colorado with her family. For more information, please visit cynthiakuhn.net.