TBR Challenge: Candy Apple Red

Wow. Looks like my last several blogposts have all been about the TBR challenge. Between the new grandbaby, and getting my dad settled in the nursing home, and finding all their paperwork to get sent off to the accountants for taxes, and then fighting off the bronchitis from !*@&#!, I haven’t posted anything here, have I?

But I’ve been good. I realized the challenge was coming up, and went to my TBR shelves to see what I was in the mood to read. See, I didn’t list any books as “intending to read” for the challenge. What I want to read depends on my mood, and if I’m not in the right mood, I can’t get through things I might have had on my list. So, I just perused my shelves (and moved a lot of stuff around), and picked out CANDY APPLE RED by Nancy Bush.

So. The book is a September 2006 release from Kensington, book #1 in the Jane Kelly series.

Why was it on my TBR shelf? Because I got it free from an RWA conference, I think. 2006 was several years ago, and my mind does well to remember what I was doing last week. I’m pretty sure I brought it home because I thought I’d probably enjoy reading it, stuck it on the shelf, and never got much farther. Sigh.

It IS by a new-to-me author, which was the suggestion for March, so I succeeded there. It’s not really a romance.

The Review: There’s a blurb on the front cover from Lisa Jackson that says “Move over Stephanie Plum, Jane Kelly has arrived.”   This to me would intimate that the book is slapstick funny, with lots of quirky characters and things blowing up. It’s not. It’s a pretty good read, but it’s not slapstick. It’s your basic cozy mystery with relationship issues and a single-gal protagonist.

Jane Kelly is what her married accountant friend Billy calls a “hatchery fish.” Someone who takes the easy route, rather than struggling upstream. She moved to Portland, OR, following a man, and just sort of stayed when he moved on. She works as a process server, and does a bit of research for a private investigator. (She does get “treed” by a mean dog on top of her car and has to call her friend for a rescue, but her friend is not a Lula-type. She has more sense than Jane.) She’s slightly attracted to the PI, but doesn’t want to be. She’s still hung up on the guy who moved on, Murphy.

There’s an old mystery at the heart of all this. Murphy’s best friend Bobby was accused of murdering his entire family–wife and 3 kids–and vanishing, several years ago. It’s why Murphy left town–he didn’t want to believe it. The cops think Bobby’s parents–rich and divorced–have been supporting him. But now Bobby’s Mom wants Jane to use her connection with Murphy to talk to Bobby’s Dad and find out where he–Bobby–is. Jane doesn’t want to. She wants to be over Murphy. Then Bobby turns up drowned in the lake.

This story has a lot of threads and a lot of subtext. It’s complicated–and it’s not. The thing about mystery stories–most of the story is about the character’s everyday life, with, admittedly, lots of going here to talk to this person and there to sneak around that person’s house. In this story, there was a lot of riding in boats to go drink at a restaurant on a lake, or going to eat at this other restaurant. There were a lot of clothes. Jane claimed not to care much about what she wore, but Nancy Bush spent a lot of time describing what she wore. There was a fair bit of mayhem. Bush did a good job hiding the identity of the murderer. It was a fairly interesting mystery.

I’m trying to come up with my main impression of the book, and maybe what I see as the main difference between this one and others of a similar type that I’ve enjoyed more. And I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy it, but…it felt like something was missing. It didn’t have the brash voice of an Evanovich book, but I like a lot of series that don’t. It felt… Dry. (For all the tootling around on–and in–the lake Jane did.) I know it’s not a romance, or even romantic suspense, but the heart didn’t seem to be in it. Her lingering obsession with Murphy seemed a tad academic, and her attraction to Dwayne (her boss PI) seemed to appear only when Bush needed it to. The emotion was played so far down, it felt dry.

So over all, it was an interesting read, it kept my attention all the way through to the end, without me yelling at the book for info dumping or researchitis or anything. But I don’t know if I’m going to go out of my way to read any more by this author. This one’s going to fall somewhere between “I liked it” and “It was okay.”

I have drugs for the bronchitis. I sure hope they kick this stuff on its butt soon! I’m tired of feeling like crap.

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