I received an ARC of A Midsummer Night’s Scheme, a cozy mystery set in a small town, in exchange for the review below.
All the world’s a stage, but it may be curtains for bookbinder Quinn Caine’s brother if she can’t bring the lights down on an actor’s killer, in this mystery perfect for fans of Jenn McKinlay and Kate Carlisle.
Just when everything is returning to the calm that Quinn Caine and her sidekicks, Ruff Barker Ginsburg and Sister Daria, are used to in their beloved town of Vienna, a Broadway star crash-lands into their peace and quiet. Former ‘player’, Chad Frivole, is Vienna’s prodigal son—the once notorious lothario has returned a Broadway star, ready to make a different kind of mark on his hometown.
Not everyone is celebrating the Tony-award-winner’s return. Chad’s a triple threat—with a cast of characters lining up to seek their revenge on him. So, when he turns up dead in his car, trapped with a sack full of snakes, Quinn can’t say she’s surprised—but promises handsome detective Aiden Harrington that she’s staying out of this local mystery.
That is until someone starts threatening her brother’s life. It’s true, Sebastian ‘Bash’ Caine used to be a womanizer, just like Chad. And the killer doesn’t seem to care that he’s not that man anymore. Bash Caine is in the killer’s sights, and unless Quinn and her crew can find the killer in time, whoever it is will drag her brother into his final act on this mortal coil.
This book is the second in Kincaid’s Bookbinding Mystery series and features bookbinder Quinn Caine again as the main character, along with her trusty sidekicks Sister Daria and RBG, aka Ruff Barker Ginsburg, the dog. This time, Quinn has to find out who in a group of ex-girlfriends is picking off town womanizers, starting with a hometown movie star who has just returned and potentially threatening Quinn’s brother. The book gets right to the action, while also mixing in the colorful personalities and small-town quirks that are often hallmarks of the genre.
This cozy mystery has all of the charms of the average small town set up: a star that returns to his hometown, a cast of characters who run small businesses, and plenty of personalities. While I thought the central mystery was fairly well done and the main character was likable, it was not one of my favorites in the genre. Several of the characters either felt like caricatures or were underrealized.
For example, Sister Daria mostly seems to be in a convent because she joined one after a bad breakup rather than for any reason of faith or personal conviction. While I thought the idea of a nun as a character was an exciting premise and would want to hear more about her inner struggles, the ways in which Sister Daria acts and her daily life seem unrealistic even within a cozy mystery setting.
I also appreciated the author’s attempts to tackle issues like interfaith marriages and families and LGBTQ+ rights within the context of a church, but often it felt like these things were just brought up as throwaways to make the story more relevant or as ways to prevent possible criticisms of the characters.
I don’t mean to make it sound like I didn’t enjoy this book, because I did: the central mystery is a solid one and the story is well-written; I would read future books in the series to see how the characters develop. However, I would recommend this to readers who like their cozy mysteries on the less realistic side in terms of character development and interactions.