As I mentioned in my previous post, I was stuck on a book. Despite all the reasons I thought I would like that mystery set in Georgian England, it just wasn’t grabbing me and it seemed like the best way to restart my reading was to switch books. Normally, to get on-track with my reading again, I like turn to a book by a favorite author, a known quantity. But, much to my folly, I went with an author I hadn’t read before.
The premise of Hooked on Murder by Betty Hechtman appealed to me for a couple reasons. It was set in a bookstore and it involved a crochet group–two things I love. Not only that, but because this author was published by Berkley Prime Crime, I had a feeling I knew what to expect from the book in terms style and the quality of writing.
Berkley Prime Crime tends to specialize in “cozies”, mysteries in the tradition of Agatha Christie where things happen in a set location with an established cast of characters. These books focus more on the mystery of figuring out “who-done-it” than on vividly gruesome crime description, overt violence, or action. And the Prime Crime books seem to be aimed at women because so many of the authors and protagonists are female. But while Hooked on Murder was generally true to what I have come to expect from Berkley Prime Crime, it just didn’t do it for me.
The story. Molly Pink, a recent widow in her late 40s, has fought to get her life back to a new normal after the early death of her husband Charlie, a partner in a small public relations firm. But Molly’s plans for her new normal are thrown when she discovers the dead body of Ellen, her husband’s business partner. Now Molly is scrambling to figure out who would kill Ellen because a jealous female police detective seems convinced Molly is guilty, a development that would free up Molly’s boyfriend for this detective. In her efforts to learn more about the deceased and find an outlet for the nervous energy being the prime suspect of a murder investigation can cause, Molly joins the crochet group that Ellen ran and learns that there were a variety of people who benefited from Ellen’s death far more than Molly did. In order to prove her innocence, Molly is going to have to find out who really killed Ellen–all while learning to crochet the perfect granny square.
What I liked. As a protagonist, Molly is likeable. She’s been through tough times with the early death of her husband, but she’s rebuilding her life on her own and struggles to maintain the independence she’s discovered in the wake of tragedy. Not only is Molly herself likeable, but so is her best friend Dinah, a community college English teacher who refuses to disclose her age. I enjoyed this story the most when it stayed with Molly and Dinah.
The other characters. Other than Molly and Dinah, almost none of the characters were likeable. Molly had two grown sons, Peter and Samuel, and neither of them seemed worthy of her. Peter came across as coldly self-centered that even as his mother worried about being arrested. Samuel fares no better, coming across as a complete wuss. Molly’s boyfriend Barry was remarkably obtuse for a police detective, never realizing that “Detective Heather” was crushing on him and trying to get Molly out of the way, even if that meant charging Molly with a murder she didn’t commit. Adele, a fellow bookstore employee, is so over-the-top rude to Molly that I cringed each time she appeared in the story. An aging star, CeeCee, attempting to become the crochet group’s new leader is entertaining in her vain way, but the other group members are kind of flat. The owners of the bookstore where Molly works are only present to heap pressure on Molly for things she can’t control, and it felt odd that small business owners would be in their shop so seldom. Perhaps the only other likeable character was Jeffrey, Barry’s son. Thirteen-year-old Jeffrey, despite his father’s consternation, wants to be an actor and wants to know all about Molly’s experience finding a dead body. I can go along with a lot in a story so long as I like the characters in it, but with Hooked on Murder I mostly felt sorry for Molly, Dinah, and Jeffrey that they were surrounded by so many jerks.
The writing. Despite the drought of likeable characters, Betty Hechtman writes a clear, understandable story. Through the action and the revelation of the mystery, there weren’t any times in the story when it was unclear who had done what. I appreciate that because it gives me the feeling that I’m getting the information I need to figure out the mystery. However, that wasn’t quite the case with this book. Not unlike Agatha Christie, there was a whole lot of red herring and very little that would allow the reader to figure out the mystery.
I really wanted to like this mystery, but I don’t think I will read anymore books in this series. My affection for crocheting isn’t enough to overcome my dislike for so many of the characters. However, the good thing this book this did was it compelled me to start a new crochet project. If I like how it turns out, I’ll share it here.
Until then, I wish you better reads than I’ve been reading. A book that you think is going to be good and doesn’t deliver, well, that feels like a broken promise.