Monday, 6 August 2012

No Substitute for Murder


Author: Carolyn J Rose
Genre: Mystery
Type: Kindle ebook
First Published: January 2012
First Line: "The problem with getting your life back on track is that there's usually another catastrophe hurtling down the rails to knock you off again."

Synopsis:  Barbara Reed has hit a major slump in her life.  Recently divorced and out of a job she's hoping that something good will be on the horizon.  Unfortunately it doesn't seem like Barbara's life is on an upward swing yet.  Her con-man/philandering ex-husband has decided to move into the same apartment complex and her unemployment cheques are about to run out.  Desperate to make some money to make ends meet she decides to take a job as a substitute teacher at the local high school.

Barbara is worried about dealing with hundreds of teenagers each day but that is the least of her problems.  Her stress level skyrockets when she finds the stodgy old history teacher, Henry Stoddard, strangled in his classroom.  Henry was a mean spirited old curmudgeon who had blackmail material on most of the staff.  Unfortunately, since Barbara was the person to find the body people assume the worst of the new supply teacher.  Barbara vows to clear her name but with the police suspicious of her already Barbara needs to work fast.

My Thoughts:  This was one of those books that received very favourable reviews in the Kindle store so I took a chance and bought it eager to find a new mystery writer/series.  Unfortunately I disagree with the numerous 5 star ratings and, quite honestly, I'm confused by them.  In my humble opinion, this book was not at a 5 star level for various reasons.

First of all, if the dog in the book has a huge roll and more of a personality than the human characters you know you're in trouble.  Cheese Puff the dog got a lot of page time in this book.  While he may be cute he should have been off on the sidelines more so the mystery could be showcased.  I think the author was going for cutsie/quirky but I was hoping for a lot more suspense and less cutsie canine.

The other characters, with the exception of quirky neighbour Mrs Ballentyne, were all one-dimensional and very blaw.  No one really stood out and they all started to blend together.  This was proven when I kept getting various teachers that Barbara works with mixed up. 

Mrs Ballentyne, while more of a well-rounded character, still wasn't as interesting as she could have been.  Her nefarious past and connections were hinted at but not used to benefit the story as much as I would have hoped or expected.

But I think it's Barbara's relationship with her sister that bothered me the most.  I find it very off putting when a main character has the backbone of a squished slug.  She's the family doormat and allows her sister to steam roll over her.  I just don't like reading about someone taking verbal abuse/bullying and not standing up for themselves.  It just doesn't appeal to me.  Also, the sister didn't add anything to the overall storyline so I'm not sure why she had to be added.

As for the mystery part of the story?  It was very slow and never really felt like it had any oomph from the get go.  The suspense was nonexistent since there were no cool twists or shockers thrown in to shake things up.  Even the conclusion of the mystery wasn't a surprise.  Not the sign of a good mystery.

Finally, at the beginning of each chapter there was a quiz about substitute teaching.  Perhaps if I was a substitute teacher I'd appreciate those quizzes but after the first few chapters they just got annoying and I skipped them.

Unfortunately this mystery didn't pan out as well as I had hoped.  The writing style was decent but the suspense and memorable characters just weren't there.

My Rating: 1.5/5 stars

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