A first for me and this blog — I read and reviewed a scrapbooking mystery!
Here’s my review of “Cropped to Death” by Christina Freeburn, a fellow writer, West Virginian and scrapbooker.
“Cropped To Death” is a cozy mystery that exceeds expectations. The author, Christina Freeburn, writes what she knows: scrapbooking and small-town West Virginia life. As a West Virginian who scrapbooks and runs a scrapbooking retreat for women, I was excited to get my hands on an Advance Reader Copy. The 290-page book, published by Henery Press, will be on sale Nov. 20, but you can pre-order it now from Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.
Not only does the heroine, Faith Hunter, work in a scrapbook store, the clue to the murderer’s identity and motive is found hidden in a scrapbook layout. Faith’s coworker is accused of cropping her cheating husband out of the picture permanently. The evidence is damning and no other suspects are considered. However, Faith feels compelled to prove her friend’s innocence because of what happened to her in the past, when she was a U.S. Army JAG Specialist. Scrapbookers will recognize the hobbyist terms but even nonscrapbookers will be able to tell from the context what Faith is talking about when she’s teaching a scrapbooking class or helping customers.
My small West Virginia town is not as quaint as Eden, W.Va., and has fewer tattletales (if not gossips) but Freeburn’s dialogue rings true. This is the way West Virginians talk. The author doesn’t embellish by creating affected dialect. I am pleased that this book gives a positive representation of life in an Appalachian community. There are recognizable, familiar details in the setting with nothing objectionable. In fact, Eden could be any of several communities facing the dilemma of whether to evolve into a bustling metropolis or stay true to its farming roots. As Freeburn writes, “The loss of landscape, faster pace of life and rise in crime caused distrust to bloom … . Farmers blamed the artists who wanted more tourists visiting, and the artists blamed it on the tech people who wanted to enter into the “new” century.”
There is nothing I don’t like about the author’s writing style. It’s clear and easy to follow with strong verbs, specific description and real-life dialogue. As a journalist, I took note of the author’s use of short sentences breaking up long sections. It varied the story’s pacing. I don’t know the author well but I can just tell it’s her sense of humor that shows up in the book, helping the story flow, making the character real and keeping the reader interested.
Freeburn has crafted a mystery that does not feel clichéd or cookie-cutter. I read a lot of culinary mysteries, another subgenre of cozy mysteries, and it’s refreshing that the amateur sleuth in “Cropped to Death” did not find the body. The main character, Faith, is tangentially involved with the case and doesn’t know, but can only discover, what the murder weapon is. The plot is realistic – there is no providential “in” with the police or prosecutor. Even though one of the assistant prosecutors is a friend, Faith doesn’t and can’t take advantage of that information to help her solve the murder. The author doesn’t make it easy for the heroine.
Also refreshing is the fact that the amateur can be bumbling – she really messes things up in her “investigation.” She frequently realizes after the fact how she could’ve carried out an idea without a blunder. It makes the character seem real.
A plot point is the scandal that caused Faith to leave the military. Fortunately we find out the details of that in the first book of the series; the author doesn’t keep us hanging on for several books in the series, as often happens in other cozies where you have to keep reading successive books to find out the big secret.
And the author promises more Faith Hunter books – I hope she writes fast!