Title: How to Book a Murder ( A Starlit Bookshop Mystery #1)
Author: Cynthia Kuhn
Published on: 7 December 2021
Genre: Cozy Mystery
A newly minted PhD, Dr. Emma Starrs moves to Colorado to help save her family bookstore – Starlit Bookshop. She takes over a murder-mystery-themed dinner party for her wealthy and well-connected classmate Tabitha Baxter. But things take a turn for worse when Tabitha’s husband – Tip – is killed in his own house.
Tabitha accuses Emma and her aunt Nora of killing her husband. She makes sure the whole town knows they are guilty. A celebrated author Calliope Nightfall hires Emma to plan a Poe-themed launch party for her latest book. While Emma is planning for the gothic-themed party, she becomes the first one to arrive at another crime scene – this time, it is closer to the bookstore. Before fingers are pointed at Emma once again, she must solve the mystery and prove her innocence.
How to Book a Murder is the first book in Cynthia Kuhn’s A Starlit Bookshop Mystery series. A new cozy series with bookish theme, a murder at a murder-mystery-themed-dinner party and a whole lot of fun, I was eagerly looking forward to read this book. So, what do I think of How to Book a Murder? Read on to know more. 🙂
First things first, the cozy series theme. I have come to love these bookish-themed cozy mysteries. Be it a cozy series set at a bookshop (magical or normal) or libraries (haunted or otherwise) – I love the inclusion of the protagonist’s ‘love for books’ in a mystery.
I did not feel like this was a first in the series – just the right blend of character introduction, series-theme setting and woah, things certainly start on a very mysterious note. Emma and her sister Lucy’s bookstore is visited by Tabitha – Tabitha is a wealthy and well-connected classmate of Emma. Tabitha creates quite a scene at the bookstore; she even has the audacity to insult Emma’s choices in life!! Yet, when she talks of the event and how the event manager had to go away on a family emergency, Emma decides to pitch in and help Tabitha in setting up the party. While at the party, Tabitha makes sure Emma knows her place.
When Tabitha’s husband Tip is found dead, Tabitha makes sure everyone knows Emma and her aunt Nora (a renowned author and Tip’s colleague) are guilty. Some believe Tabitha’s false accusations while others don’t. But Emma cannot shake the feeling that she and her aunt are wrongly accused or even suspects of a crime they did not commit.
Emma decides to investigate – no, not like an amateur sleuth in a cozy mystery – but just for her own curiosity. In the meantime, she is offered another opportunity as a party planner. Calliope Nightfall, a versatile author when it comes to gothic novels, asks Emma to host a Poe-themed launch party for her latest book.
A local book club is at the bookstore for their weekly meeting when they hear a scream from the store next door. Emma rushes to the store and witnesses another crime. This time, she has an alibi – and Tabitha cannot accuse her of committing another crime. But the latest victim was connected to Tip. Is it possible that the two crimes are related?
I loved the character introduction and portrayal. Emma was offered a job as a professor at a famous university but she left it all to help save her family business. Emma and her sister Lucy lost their parents at a freak accident. Their aunt Nora took over the role of a parents and even mortgaged her house to save the bookstore. So, when Emma learns the bookstore is not doing well, she rushes to Colorado to do whatever it takes to save the business her parents started decades ago.
Speaking of characters, there’s no doubt Tabitha Baxter was a pain-in-the-you-know-where from the beginning of the story. What an annoying git! She and her circle of we-are-freaking-rich-and-we-do-as-we-please friends certainly deserve an eye roll or two.
The mystery behind the murders kept me guessing till the end. I could not identify the perp until Emma came face-to-face with them. There is a dash of romance – a prospective beau for Emma maybe – as the story ends. Though I enjoyed this book, I must say at times I felt like there was something missing. (I really cannot point it out though.)
How to Book a Murder by Cynthia Kuhn is a promising cozy series debut. I am looking forward to knowing what’s next for Emma, Lucy and aunt Nora.
I received an ARC from Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased opinion.