Charlotte Reed, owner of Chapters B&B is eager to welcome an eclectic group of booklovers. Lora Kane, Charlotte’s friend and former colleague is a part of a book club. She and her group are at Chapters for a book club retreat focused on fairy tales and classic children’s literature.
One of the guests, Stacy, is disliked by rest of the group. When Stacy is found dead at the Mad Hatter tea party, Charlotte is once again caught up in the midst of a crime. Not only the guests, one of the sea charter’s captain too had a beef with the victim. With a long list of suspects, Charlotte and her former spy neighbor Ellen Montgomery, will have a tough time cracking this one.
A Fatal Booking is the third book in Victoria Gilbert’s A Booklover’s B&B Mystery series. The series revolves around a retired teacher named Charlotte Reed and her bookish themed Bed & Breakfast. After the death of her husband, Brent, Charlotte moved to Chapters for a new start. Chapters was initially under Isabella’s (Charlotte’s aunt) ownership. When she passed away, she left the B&B in Charlotte’s name. The series also features Ellen Montgomery, Charlotte’s neighbor and former spy.
The story begins with Charlotte meeting her former colleague Lora Kane. Lora wants to host a book club retreat at Chapters. They meet at a local restaurant to discuss the events of the retreat. When Lora mentions Stacy’s name, a man from the next table barges into their conversation and has nothing but negative to say about Stacy. Charlotte makes a mental note to inform Detective Amber Johnson about this conversation, just in case things go out of control…
When the guests arrive, it is pretty clear to Charlotte and Alice(resident help at the B&B) that almost all the guests have taken a dislike to Stacy. During the Mad Hatter tea party, Stacy is found dead. Charlotte is once again caught in the midst of a murder mystery… Well, murder at her B&B might not be good for business. Also, she’s done a bit of amateur sleuthing before so maybe it is time to don her detective hat…
I have been following this series from the start. I absolutely love everything about this series. We have a bookish themed B&B, a former spy as a neighbor, we also saw a prospective lover (for Charlotte)- Gavin – who also happens to be a spy, a group of Irregulars – as Ellen calls Charlotte’s sleuthing buddies, and whole lotta fun!
Suspects are plenty, after all, the victim had cheated them in the past. We also have a side-story: someone’s been rummaging the boxes in the attic. Charlotte and Alice also find a few photos missing from the B&B’s library. One of the guests, Arnie, had mentioned that he visited Chapters decades ago, when Isabella hadn’t converted her house into a B&B. Isabella was known to throw lavish parties for rich and famous guests. Arnie’s father and Isabella moved in the same circle and this is how Arnie came to know of Isabella. Arnie confesses he always had a crush on Isabella.
The next day (of the murder), Charlotte finds one of the guests looking for something at the crime scene. When asked, they randomly make up an excuse and leave. Charlotte and Ellen decide to investigate and dig into the guests’ lives. Soon, they learn almost everyone had a motive and means to kill Stacy.
Plenty of red herrings made sure that an avid mystery reader like me could not identify the perp until the end. I really loved the way Victoria Gilbert slowly revealed the mystery behind the murder – one bit at a time. Also, halfway through the story, Charlotte wonders if running a B&B is exhaustive and returning to teaching might be a better option. Well, this is discussed further at the end of the story but I certainly hope Charlotte continues sleuthing.
The writing is fantastic and the mystery behind the murder keeps one guessing till the end. Having said that, I felt something amiss – none of the characters stood out from the rest; maybe, a bit of variety in each recurring character’s growth in the series might remedy this situation. A dash of romance was surely a welcoming change in the series though. I am eager to see how the romance angle develops in the future books of this series.
A Fatal Booking is an engrossing and completely entertaining cozy mystery. If you are a book lover and love to read bookish theme based mysteries, you might want to give A Fatal Booking by Victoria Gilbert a try.
I received an ARC from Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased opinion.