On Flashback Fridays I will share with you the books I was not able to review when they were first released that have been screaming at me from my To-Be-Read bookshelf.
Fatal Brushstroke (An Aurora Anderson Mystery)
by Sybil Johnson
1st In Series
Setting – California
Henery Press(November 18, 2014)
Hardcover: 270 pages
Paperback: 276 pages
Kindle – ASIN: B00N265TVY
A dead body in her garden and a homicide detective on her doorstep…
Computer programmer and tole painting enthusiast Aurora (Rory) Anderson doesn’t envision finding either when she steps outside to investigate the frenzied yipping coming from her own backyard. After all, she lives in Vista Beach, a quiet California beach community where violent crime is rare and murder even rarer.
Suspicion falls on Rory when the body buried in her flowerbed turns out to be someone she knows—her tole painting teacher, Hester Bouquet. Just two weeks before, Rory attended one of Hester’s weekend seminars, an unpleasant experience she vowed never to repeat. As evidence piles up against Rory, she embarks on a quest to identify the killer and clear her name. Can Rory unearth the truth before she encounters her own brush with death?
Rory Anderson is a computer programmer that works from her home in sunny California. As a hobby she enjoys tole painting. Sounds like a quiet idyllic life to me. But when a body is found buried in her garden things become chaotic as Rory is a suspect trying to clear her name.
This was an interesting debut. Rory has a past that the author explains over the course of the story that makes her a very vulnerable main character. She spends a lot of time with her mother but their relationship felt a bit off until more of Rory’s past is revealed and things start to fall into place. At first I thought maybe I missed a novella or a previous story in this series but after double checking found that was not the case I soldiered on. I feel if her past would have been addressed in full at the beginning the flow of the book would have been better and not so choppy.
Disregarding the flow, the theme and substance of the mystery was enjoyable. Painting instructor, Hester Bouquet, killed, but by who? The author gives a several viable suspects, and I had both of my prime suspects cast aside when additional facts were revealed. The police seemed determined Rory was the killer, what they lacked in evidence was trumped by the location of the body and they seemed satisfied. We do learn why the police chief is so determined to prove Rory guilty rather than really investigating the crime, but I really didn’t like him as a character from the start. Thankfully Rory kept digging and digging to prove him wrong. She does hold things back from him and was not always forthcoming but that is just a normal part of cozy mysteries.
I always say first books in a series are difficult because the author has a heavy lift, introducing the characters and giving us a mystery that grabs us and holds us to the last page. While the character introduction was a bit murky at first, the mystery was skillfully composed. The description of the setting, Vista Beach, was pleasing as well.
Now that I have gotten to know Rory’s backstory I am really looking forward to the next book in this series, Paint the Town Dead, which I plan to read very soon as the 3rd book in the series, A Palette for Murder is being released at the end of the month.
About The Author –
Sybil Johnson’s love affair with reading began in kindergarten with “The Three Little Pigs.” Visits to the library introduced her to Encyclopedia Brown, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and a host of other characters. Fast forward to college where she continued reading while studying Computer Science. After a rewarding career in the computer industry, Sybil decided to try her hand at writing mysteries. Her short fiction has appeared in Mysterical-E and Spinetingler Magazine, among others. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, she now lives in Southern California where she enjoys tole painting, studying ancient languages and spending time with friends and family.
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”