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Monday, March 7, 2016


4 stars out of 5

Every once in a while, I feel the need to "unwind," mentally speaking, by reading something that doesn't challenge my brain cells. To be sure, I still prefer that it be in my favorite genre - murder mystery - but I want to be able to breeze through it somewhat mindlessly.

I've exhausted several series that filled that bill - such as the late Lilian Jackson Braun's Cat Who books and The Burglar Who series by Lawrence Block. But as I finished up yet another dank, dark thriller - making it three or four in a row - I just couldn't face another one. What's a worn out reader to do?

The solution - this book - suddenly appeared in the list of freebies available at Amazon from one of the many daily services to which I subscribe (e.g., BookBub, BookGorilla, Lendle). Even though it's the second in the series, the premise sounded exactly like what I was looking for. For openers, it's short (175 pages); even if its awful, I reasoned, it won't take long to muddle my way through.

As it turns out, it's exactly what the book doctor ordered; I enjoyed it enough that I'm looking forward to the next, Body in the Woods. As the subtitle notes (in addition to being dubbed a "cozy mystery,") the story centers on The Reverend Annabelle Dixon, an Anglican priest who's 5 feet 11 inches tall with a curiosity surpassing that of her church cat, Biscuit, and a borderline unhealthy love of sweets. She lives in the small village of Upton St. Mary, Cornwall, England, where she is the vicar of St. Mary's Church.

When Annabelle pays a visit to the parish's newest resident, Sir John Cartwright, she gets a nasty surprise: He's quite dead. Clearly, given the scenario, it's murder. So, she calls in the local police, which includes the single, attractive Inspector Mike Nicholls (for those who don't know, Anglican priests are free to marry, so the possibility of romance plays a bit of a role here as well).

From that point on, giving any details would spoil the whole thing (given that it's so short), so the only thing I'll say is that it's not necessary to read the first book to enjoy this one. Bottom line? You won't find anything remotely disturbing or psychologically deep here. It's just, well, cozy - with a touch of whimsy thrown in. The last part of the book includes a few recipes for sweets mentioned in the story (cupcakes, macaroons and baklava) as well as a goodly portion of the next one in the series.

Murder at the Mansion by Alison Golden and Jamie Vougeot (Amazon Digital Services LLC, October 2015); 175 pp.

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