Welcome to Cozy Wednesday!
It is my pleasure to feature Board to Death by CJ Connor today!
Board to Death (A Board Game Shop Mystery)
1st in Series
Setting – Utah
Kensington Cozies (August 22, 2023)
Paperback : 320 pages
ISBN-10 : 1496742222
ISBN-13 : 978-1496742223
Kindle ASIN : B0BNCL9PQT
In a trendy Salt Lake City, Utah, neighborhood, Ben Rosencrantz’s board game shop has become a community hotspot for players of all ages—and for killer collectors.
Back in his hometown of Sugar House, running his family’s board game shop and café, Ben Rosencrantz just can’t seem to get his life to pass go, much less collect $200. Once he was a happily married English professor in Seattle. Now he’s a divorced caregiver, looking after his ill father and a Chihuahua named Beans while still figuring out the rules of retail management. At least the town has become more LGBTQ+ friendly than when Ben was a teenager—and that flower shop owner, Ezra McCaslin, enjoys flirting with him.
But despite his usual clientele of gamers, Ben is barely earning enough to keep the store running and stay on top of his father’s medical bills. Then a local toy and game collector named Clive offers him a winning strategy—to purchase a turn-of-the-twentieth-century edition of The Landlord’s Game, the realty and taxation game that inspired Monopoly, at a tenth of the rare edition’s true value. Suspicious of Clive’s shady, low-priced deal, Ben turns the offer down.
Then Clive turns up dead at the front door of Ben’s shop and a backpack full of $100 bills appears on his doorstep. Now Ben is the #1 suspect in Clive’s death, and unless he and Ezra can prove his innocence and find the real killer, he’ll go to jail for murder—and no amount of double dice rolls will set him free . . .
English professor Ben Rosencrantz has come home to help his father with the family’s board game shop and café, Of Dice and Decks. He is still getting over a recent divorce and is now dealing with a father with medical issues and his Chihuahua named Beans. At least the area is more LGBTQ+ friendly now than before he left for college. In fact, the flower shop next door is owned by another gay man.
Ben has a big task if he is going to keep the store open and make enough to cover his father’s medical bills. He is open to almost any idea but when a local game collector offers him a rare game at an unbelievable price he knows it is too good to be true and turns the collector down flat.
When the collector is killed right at the front door of the game shop Ben knows he is a suspect but when a backpack filled with money is found at his house it lands him at the top of the list even though he reports the money to the police immediately. Ben looks to his new friend, flower shop owner Ezra to help him prove his innocence because if he ends up in jail it going to take more than a Get Out of Jail Free card to set him free.
I love the board game theme of this new cozy series by CJ Connor. We try to have family game nights as often as we can get the family together, where they put down their phones to play dominos and board games old and new.
That being said, I am ambivalent about how I feel about our protagonist Ben. He is very put upon, shy, and introverted, not at all what I would expect from a former college professor. Plus he grew up in the family business but is scared of customers and wants to completely avoid them if he can, all while saying he is trying to save the business. He did have trouble finding acceptance as a teenager and is dealing with a move and divorce but he comes across as whiney in stressful situations and standoffish in everyday life.
Now flower shop owner Ezra I liked immediately. He likes Ben and wants to do everything he can to help him. He definitely took the lead on their amateur investigation. I did enjoy their interactions. Some flirting and discussing the case. Ezra has the attitude I would expect of the lead character. I am wondering if taking their relationship to the next level would boost Ben’s confidence making him feel more comfortable in his surroundings and become more of the lead character I expected.
The mystery was interesting in that it revolved around a valuable collectible that was a precursor to the Monopoly game we know today. I enjoyed learning the true history and all the other references to games of my childhood.
The author plotted out the mystery well with quite a few suspects and included a lot of humorous situations as Ben and Ezra tried to find out whodunit. The guilty party was at the top of my personal suspect list very early but I had a good time following the clues and the twists.
I worked for several years for a Morman-owned company so it was easy to understand what Ben had dealt with growing up as a gay man near the ultra-conservative city. I did enjoy the Salt Lake City references as they brought back memories of the times I traveled there for work. I liked that Mr. Connor was inspired by some famous Utah scammers and schemers to create the victim’s character too.
Board to Death is a good start for this series. I am interested to see what Mr. Connor has planned for his characters next.
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About the Author
CJ Connor (he/they) is the author of queer romances and cozy mysteries, including the Board Game Shop Mystery series. Active in both the writing and LGBTQIA+ communities, they are a mentor for Author Mentor Match, an EBSCO NoveList advisor, and a member of the Utah League of Writers. They are also the co-leader of an LGBTQIA employee affinity group and a contributor for Book Riot. When they are not writing, CJ Connor can be found perusing art museums, listening to angsty folk music, stress knitting, and attending weekly gatherings for board game enthusiasts with their husband, an amateur board game designer. They live in the Salt Lake City area with their dog, Yoda. Visit CJ Connor online at CJConnorWrites.com.
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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.”