Title: Still Death
Author: Shauna Bickley
Publication date: November 8, 2014
Genre: Mystery and Thriller
Summary: Lexie is quickly realizing being a full-time mother to three young girls is harder than working a demanding job, but her husband Nathan’s job has moved them from London to the small town Nettleford once she was restructured out of a job. With my mind challenged only by small children, she quickly finds friendship with an elderly lady whose son was possibly involved with the murder of his girlfriend. Until he ends up dead, as well. Lexie, with nothing but time on her hands, sets out to not only find out why he and his girlfriend were killed, but also find out more about her other, more tight-lipped neighbor. Before she knows it, she ends up in over her head, but there’s no stopping her even though danger abounds at every turn.
I really must thank the author for this opportunity. Initially, I read the second book in the Lexie Wyatt Murder Mystery series, The Worst Lie, at the author’s request. I had no idea it was the second book, but found it to be absolutely delightful. It made me very curious about the first book, so I was absolutely floored and honored when Shauna Bickley sent me en e-copy of Still Death with no expectation of a review. I don’t really know how to read books without reviewing them anymore, but, all the same, I was very happy to do this review, and even happier to have gotten to know Lexie and Nathan even better.
The Characters: Perfectly Proper and Charming
When I read, The Worst Lie, I knew nothing about Lexie and her family. Since part of it took place during a weekend away and so much was focused on a group of friends Lexie was introduced to, I was disappointed that Nathan had felt one-dimensional and their daughters weren’t seen much. I was so happy to get to know not just Nathan and the girls, but Lexie’s parents as well. I found them all to be perfectly charming, and Tilly to be surprisingly spunky for a young girl just starting school!
I had so much fun getting to know everyone. I really identified with Lexie as a mother myself. It’s hard to keep a mind that’s more attuned to working busy when now all you’re doing is caring for children, so it was a lot of fun to read about her getting mixed up in webs left and right. Clearly, she should not be left to her own devices too much! I loved how nosy she was, as many good amateur detectives are, and it really made sense that it manifested out of boredom. Similarly, I really enjoyed Nathan and the girls. I adored the relationship between Lexie and Nathan. They were clearly a pillar to each other, but were just like any other married couple. I must say, though, between this book and the next, Nathan has quite some interesting interests! The girls were also fun, though they weren’t seen too much as they were often in school. Still, there was enough to see how much of a handful they must be, as well as how delightful.
It was also fun to get to know Lexie’s parents. I was a little put off by how little Lexie knew of her own mother, but, after getting to know her and hearing her story, it made sense. I loved her dad. He was always there to support his wife and daughter and always knew just the right thing to do.
One thing I must say about Helen, Lexie’s new friend, is that I was actually very glad to have met her first in the second book. Looking back at my review, I saw I noted I wasn’t sure if I could trust her or not. If I had gotten to know their friendship in the first book, I wouldn’t have been so mixed up about her and it wouldn’t have scraped off a very interesting layer I really loved.
One thing I loved about the characters was that, whenever I thought I had them figured out, some new bit of information would be introduced that would make me question everything I knew about them. It was fascinating and kept me on my toes when it came to them. I loved wondering who to trust and what their motivations were. It was so much fun to get to know them through Lexie’s eyes and through the information they let slip.
The Setting: Quaint and Cozy
I adore cozy mysteries that take place in charming little towns. I love getting to know everyone and how they become mixed up with each other. There are usually so many secrets and hidden relationships that it’s almost mind boggling, yet make so much sense. This is one thing I absolutely loved about this book: the small town of Nettleford.
Nettleford just seemed so charming and quaint, yet with enough to sustain a small town and keep it feeling modern instead of out in the middle of nowhere. It also sounded very green with lots of trees and even some woods. I got to know Lexie and Nathan’s home in The Worst Lie, so it was really nice to see how and why they came to be in Nettleford. I also adored the property their house is on with plenty of green space. I was so happy to be able to spend more time there along with Lexie. Nettleford is just so achingly quaint that I wish I could go there.
The Plot: Never Let Some Women Have Too Much Time on Her Hands
I must admit the start of the story wasn’t as compelling as I had hoped it would be. It felt like the story was finding it’s feet, though it could also read as Lexie stumbling around and finding her feet as a freshly unemployed woman who had thrived on her work. Though, clearly, she should not be given so much time on her hands! It was so much fun to see her get herself so caught up in so much trouble. At one point, it felt like she was nosing her way through three different mysteries, but much of it was simply a case of “small world.” Oh, and maybe that small towns have a lot more to hide than big cities.
Most of the first half more or less introduced the cast of characters and set up mysterious occurrences and deaths to kick start the mysteries. While it was interesting, it did make it feel like it took a while for the mystery and intrigue to really start up. As nosy as Lexie was almost from the beginning, she really was just trying to settle in and not get into too much trouble.
The second half was when the story really started to heat up. I flew through those pages, wanting desperately to see how everything was tangled up together. For quite a while, it did feel like a giant messy ball of threads and I was dying to see how it would unravel. There were so many bits and pieces slipped in here and there that really kept me on my toes, so much suspense woven in. It felt like Lexie had finally hit her stride as an amateur detective. Oh, and I can’t forget the paranoia she developed. I felt it right alongside her and my heart seriously started pounding, wondering if this was when she was going to be caught or find herself in serious trouble.
I was so pleased that, as quaint as the whole town was, the same could not be said of the story. As charming as I found it, the mystery was no joke. It was all very serious with some seriously high stakes. It was messy and tangled, and absolutely delightful. As a whole, the story was a lot of fun. The first part was a little harder to get through, but the second part, when things started to heat up, was really stunning.
Overall: A Delightfully Serious Mystery
I love mysteries where the amateur detective falls into the mystery. This was absolutely the case here, but I also loved how nosy Lexie was. I couldn’t help but feel nosy right with her. I couldn’t wait for her to solve the mystery. The characters were all so much fun and the setting provided the perfect backdrop. The mystery was really the highlight of the book and more than impressed me with the sheer complexity of it. I loved feeling that, whenever I thought I had figured something out, something else was slipped in to turn it on it’s head. Overall, this was a fun mystery that felt both cozy and a little hardboiled. It was fun, suspenseful, and even a little scary. And I totally don’t blame Nathan for being wary of Lexie getting involved in another mystery in The Worst Lie!
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Thank you to the author, Shauna Bickley, for a free e-copy. All opinions expressed are my own.