The Coloring Crook by Krista Davis

Title: The Coloring Crook (Pen & Ink Mystery #2)

Author: Krista Davis

Published on: 27 November 2018

Genre: Cozy Mystery

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Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Coloring Crook is the second book in Krista Davis’ Pen & Ink Mystery series.

Dolly Cavanaugh, a member of Hues, Brews, and Clues coloring club at Color Me Read, finds a copy of The Florist – the earliest coloring book first published in 1760. She asks Florrie, the manager of Color Me Read to authenticate the book. Florrie learns the book is a first edition and will be sold for a huge amount. When she tells Dolly of her discovery, Dolly knows she can now give her estranged daughter the kind of life she always wished for.

Dolly and Professor Zsazsa celebrate the finding with a glass of champagne at the local café. Dolly has left her purse at the bookstore and Florrie tells she will drop by once the store closes. But when Florrie and her sister Veronica reach Dolly’s place, they find Dolly lying on the floor. The Florist is nowhere to be seen. Dolly breathes her last before the paramedics arrive.

As Florrie dives into Dolly’s past and personal effects, she finds a skeleton in the attic of Dolly’s home. Was Dolly a murderer? Dolly did claim to be married four times and her last husband was shot to death. Meanwhile, a notorious thief who stole Maxwell family’s Van Gogh painting two decades ago is released from jail. Professor Maxwell wants to tail the man and find his family heirloom.

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I enjoyed reading the first book of this series – Color Me Murder – and I was looking forward to catch up with this series. Coloring book themed cozy mystery caught my attention. Also, the book covers of this series can be colored – both sides, I presume. I love coloring books – they reduce stress and also ignite the creative genius in you. 🙂

The Coloring Crook started on an interesting note. We have Dolly, Florrie and Veronica visit an estate sale where they meet the estate sale agent Percy. He thinks books are useless and nobody reads them. He also has no idea of how to value an item – he puts them for sale at dirt cheap prices – some of these items can be sold for hundreds of dollars on eBay. Dolly finds a copy of The Florist, the earliest known coloring book published in 1760. When Florrie says it is a first edition, Dolly wastes no time in celebrating – and posting about her findings on Facebook.

That same evening, Dolly is attacked and left to die in her home. The Florist is nowhere to be seen. Florrie decides to investigate the missing first edition and bring Dolly’s killer to justice. There are plenty of suspects. Dolly’s estranged daughter does not grieve the loss of her mother. One of Dolly’s tenants is living under false pretenses. Then there’s the case of the stolen Van Gogh painting – Professor Maxwell’s (Florrie’s boss) family owned it before it was stolen on its way to the museum two decades ago.

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I suppose there is a thing such as too many cooks spoil the broth; or in this case, too many suspects and too many side stories spoil the mystery. Though the story began on an interesting note, it fell flat halfway through. Turns out, many from the suspects list had a hand to play in either the murders or theft or attacks on one of the characters. To top it all, the person to whom The Florist initially belong (before Dolly) was a pestering pain in the neck – whatever role they played, it could only be described as fillers – or, red herrings, perhaps.

The ending seemed hurried up and certain conclusions did not make sense. I read the last three chapters twice, trying to learn who murdered Dolly. With all the suspense built throughout the story and not to forget the red herrings, the ending fell flat and Dolly’s murderer was lost in the mess. The stolen Van Gogh painting, Dolly’s murder and the skeleton in the attic were connected, alright – but not in a way I thought it would be. It just seemed so easy to relate – I like a good challenge at the end – something to excite the grey cells.

I had mentioned in my review of Color Me Murder that I am looking forward to knowing how Professor Maxwell’s personal loss (kidnapped daughter) will be explored further. As this story begins, we see less and less of Professor Maxwell – his butler tells Florrie that there has been some news of the missing daughter (she was kidnapped two decades ago). But as the story ends, this mystery reaches a dead end. I wonder if Maxwell will finally learn what happened to his daughter – I wouldn’t want to wait till the end of this series to know more about this mystery.

Overall, this was an okay read. I hope the next book turns out to be better than this one. Fingers crossed.


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