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Review 🔍 Murder in the Margins by Margaret Loudon

October 29, 2020


The plot thickens for American gothic writer Penelope Parish when a murder near her quaint British bookshop reveals a novel’s worth of killer characters.

Penelope Parish has hit a streak of bad luck, including a severe case of writer’s block that is threatening her sophomore book. Hoping a writer in residence position at The Open Book bookstore in Upper Chumley-on-Stoke, England, will shake the cobwebs loose, Pen, as she’s affectionately known, packs her typewriter and heads across the pond.

Unfortunately, life in Chumley is far from quiet and when the chairwoman of the local Worthington Fest is found dead, fingers are pointed at Charlotte Davenport, an American romance novelist and the future Duchess of Worthington. Charlotte turns to the one person who might be her ally for help: fellow American Pen. Teaming up with bookstore owner Mabel Morris and her new friend Figgy, Pen sets out to learn the truth and find the tricks that will help her finish her novel.

Release Date:
Oct 27, 2020
Series: The Open Book Mysteries
Book: 1
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: Berkley
Price: $7.99

Penelope Parish has written a bestselling Gothic novel, but then gets writer’s block when working on her follow-up book. Pen leaves New York behind and accepts a writer-in-residence job at a bookstore in an English village. Pen is getting to know her co-workers and regular customers and is invited to deliver a talk at a local festival at a duke’s castle. Just as she begins to speak, a scream interrupts the presentation. Someone has discovered a dead body in the castle and it looks like murder. When the duke’s fiancée, also an American author, becomes a suspect, Pen agrees to do some digging and help prove Charlotte’s innocence.

This is a light mystery that is a quick read that is perfect for a Fall evening with a cup of tea. The pace is somewhat uneven especially in the beginning and middle of the book before it really picks up toward the end. However, even in the slower parts, there is something to enjoy. I really like when Pen is leading a writer’s or book group. It shows how knowledgeable she is and she seems most confident in these situations. I would have liked more of these scenes and more of her actually writing her book, and maybe even some excerpts at the beginning of some of the chapters to highlight the fact that Pen is an author. A few of the side characters just blurred together for me. I did, however, enjoy Mabel, who owns the bookstore where Pen is working. She’s smart, practical, and unlike some of the village residents, non-judgemental. She and Pen make a great team in the bookstore and in the investigation.

I never felt like I got to know Regina, the victim, or many of the suspects which made the book less enjoyable than it could have been. I do like that Pen is able to discover quite a few people with a motive for the murder. She even finds some evidence to support Charlotte, the woman she is trying to help, as the killer and that makes things interesting. Also interesting is the way Pen keeps crossing paths with Detective Maguire, who is investigating Regina’s murder. There is a definite attraction between the two of them and I think it would be fun if they teamed up and actually worked together on an investigation in the future. A pleasant author for a main character, a reliable friend, a small English village, and an attractive love interest are all elements of a great cozy and I think this new series has a lot of potential. Fans of Marty Wingate should enjoy getting to know Pen.

~ Christine

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