Warning: This is a cozy mystery. This genre is an acquired taste.
In order to appreciate cozy mysteries click here for an in-depth definition.
In terms of getting into cozy mysteries Murder in Plain Sight is a good place to start. It has all the ingredients of a good mystery novel. The characters are challenging and have important interesting backstories that are revealed in interesting ways.
The novel is engaging in that there is a web of connectedness in all the characters that we are introduced to throughout the story. Murder in Plain Sight is told from the perspective of Summer McCloud and she is a person of interest in the murder of Serena Weatherby, who was also a friend and in a bigamous relationship with Summer’s mother, Lila McCloud, and Douglas Weatherby. Serena had been married to Douglas’ brother, Jonathan Weatherby. And Summer has a friend, Agnes, who we find out is the secret child of Serena and Douglas and her given name before the adoption had been Merrily Weatherby. And Lila has a sister, Vivienne who had had(behind Lila’s back) and still has a relationship with Frank Messer and Frank Messer is Summer’s biological father. We have Randal and Randal is Summer’s half-brother and Ephraim, who is Randal’s biological father. Jerry is Summer’s on and off boyfriend and his father is responsible for the wrongful conviction of Frank Messer. It seems like the characters know each other or know of each other and they are all connected to Summer.
Summer brings a fascinating quality to the investigation, first of all, she is a psychic, and she brings a different perspective from Jerry, who is a homicide detective and deals in facts. Since everything we learn about the characters in the book is from Summer’s POV, we really don’t have more insight of their thoughts and feelings. With that said, you might get the impression that Jerry is an incompetent detective but I think he is in a tight spot. Summer is his girlfriend and her visions may be helpful in acquiring new leads in the investigation but his obligations do not permit him to disclose any classified information to Summer and at the same time, he is trying to maintain his relationship with her. That plays into this plot quite a bit. I like how Summer’s visions are handled throughout the book, certain parts are morbid and certain parts are informative enough to keep the wrench up about who the killer is. And we the readers are implicated on some level and we are made to participate in solving the mystery
There is a real darkness in the novel that Nikki Broadwell explores occasionally in a hasty manner. If you pay attention the novel touches on Pedophilia, sex, promiscuity, police corruption, mental health on profound levels only in a way a cozy mystery can. It is done so masterfully that you can barely see it and anything that is suggested you just have to let your imagination fill in the blanks. It is quite terrifying and unsettling.
I like that almost every suspect/victim has a practical motive for murder. There are two significant deaths/murders in the story that the plot hinges on, first is Lila McCloud, who disappeared five years earlier and then Serena, whose body is found in the same spot that Lila’s clothes were found. When Serena dies, in her Will she puts Lila as a second beneficiary. If her biological daughter is not found and since Lila’s body hasn’t been discovered and through Jerry we know she has filed a wrongful conviction suit against the police department, there is reason to believe that she might have faked her death. And if both Serena’s daughter and Lila die, Randal, is to inherit everything so he becomes a viable suspect in her death. The revelation that Serena Weatherby was a notorious deadly killer, a black widow, who claimed to have murdered her wealthy husbands because they were degenerates, is suspect, who is to say that she wasn’t motivated by money. And we know at some point Lila McCloud wanted to discontinue aiding Serena in her killing spree. It immediately raises the question that she might have been responsible for Lila’s death.
As layers of the plot slowly and painstakingly peel away, between Summer being blackmailed, Jerry getting shot, Ephraim, Randal’s father claiming to be a Weatherby, speculation on the validity that Ephraim might have killed Serena to avenge Jonathan Weatherby all translates to Randal’s signals of mental agility that are related to his mental illness. He is a psychopath and even from childhood as Summer recalls, he exhibits violent tendencies. Nikki Broadwell takes the connection between mental illness and crime to the extreme but it’s plausible. And the idea that a parent would conceal or assist their child in perpetrating a crime is not so far-fetched. Summer’s family is a disjointed thing in the novel. Summer might have been too young to be affected but Lila’s lifestyle did not fit with motherhood, sleeping with random men and exposing her children to it helped to change Randal’s perspectives on women so he took out his revenge on innocent women who resembled his mother, that, coupled with his existing mental illness.
The budding relationship between Jerry and Summer is threatened by secrets. It becomes more of a challenge for Jerry to continue this relationship knowing what he knows. Clearly, his mother does not approve and tries to keep Jerry in her back pocket to sabotage this relationship. I kind of understand where she is coming from because of surrounding circumstances so now Jerry is torn between his family, his professional obligations and his feelings for Summer. I would imagine that his choice to continue his relationship with her would not have been easy.
With Randal and Ephraim dead, the question still remains, who killed Serena and Lila? And Summer is depressed after her near death experience from the father and son duo. With the disclosure of a fully equipped apartment on the second floor of her shop by the pest control guy and the discovery of Lila and Frank Messer had been living there all along, would they finally solve the mystery of who killed Serena?
A brilliant read. I loved the novel.Highly recommended for Christie Agatha fans or if you love the TV show Murder she wrote.
Published by Airmid Publishing
Read an excerpt