Source: FictFact's new release calendar
Phyllis Whitney was 82 years old when she wrote this book. Seriously, guys - she was my mother-in-law's age (and I'm 51) and she would go on to write another 10 freaking books after she was 82. I'm giving it a third star just for that reason.
As far as the book itself, it certainly wasn't a bad book, although it also wasn't a great book. It's set in Key West, and at times Whitney got a little too travelogue in her descriptions. She usually does a better job integrating the setting details into the story itself. But, did I mention that she was 82 years old when she wrote this book? I'm still dealing with that fact.
This book definitely follows the Whitney formula: appealing young woman goes to a place where she is on her own, and some sort of dangerous situation develops. There is always romance, and sometimes the object of desire is a decent sort and sometimes he's the villain. There's always at least one questionable death that is usually murder, and the villain - who can be either male or female - often has a tenuous grip on reality. Often times, some historical crime is exposed.
In Dream of Orchids, Laurel is a young bookseller in New England whose mother has recently passed away, and who was abandoned by her father, Clifton York, a well known author. A young man shows up at her bookstore, asking her to visit it her father in Key West. Once she arrives in Key West, she learns that things are not as she had believed, and that there is something quite sinister going on with her father, her two younger sisters, Iris and Fern, a sunken Spanish galleon and the orchid house where her step-mother, Poppy, bled to death in a bizarre accident. There's also a creepy secretary, her scarred ex-husband, and Iris's much older and far too sketchy fiance, Derek.
This is not Whitney's best work. But goddammit, she was 82 when she wrote it. And that's amazing.
Books Read: 6
The Ersatz Elevator, The Vile Village, The Hostile Hospital: I'm continuing A Series of Unfortunate Events, hoping to finish by the end of this month. Sunny, Klaus, and Violet begin to investigate the VFD after the loss of the Quagmire triplets. At the end of The Vile Village the series breaks off from it's usual search for a guardian for the siblings and leaves them to fend for themselves completely. 4 1/2 stars.
Champagne For One, Black Orchids, The Silent Speaker: I stated last week in my round-up that going back and re-reading the Nero Wolfe books I enjoyed them even more than the first time, this continues to be accurate. Champagne For One is my favorite of the three I've finished this week (5 stars), Black Orchids comes in second (4 1/2 stars), and The Silent Speaker comes last (3 1/2 stars).
Ongoing Reads: 1
The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Reveled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime: I'm still working my way through this. Reading this, I have to say, not much has changed in regards to how people behave during and after a murder investigation.
This was a good book. It was intriguing and enjoyable, but not earth-shattering. This had been my March Kindle First book but I was way late in getting to it.
I went ahead and got the audio upgrade, voiced by Cris Dukehart, since it was available for just $1.99. Those have been helping get through these old Kindle First books that I hadn't reviewed in a timely manner. Dukehart was a great narrator, too. Her voice just felt perfect for Daphne Mayfield.
The book is listed as a mystery/thriller/suspense type book which isn't really my thing, but it was still a fun read/listen. Part of my issue with the genre is that it always feels a bit predictable to me, and in that, this one wasn't an exception. I felt like I knew where the overall story was going for most of it. Aside from that it follows that typical pattern all mystery novels seem to, the parts of the story are great and the characters were amazing and written with great depth. There's also some great misdirection, and extra things that seem like clues but don't add up to anything, and blocks along the way that were totally normal but not things that I expected to see in a mystery. The ties between the back story and the plot were solid. I especially enjoyed the way some comments haunted the main character.
As a character, I really liked Daphne and identified with her as a woman working outside of expectations. I enjoyed the pieces of her relationship with Vic that were the opposite of gendered expectations and roles and the way it's even pointed out in the story. I felt like every character was someone I'd met before and I liked that about it, as mystery/thrillers go. I'm kinda over the whole super-specialized this or that type of character. I like that everyone was just a normal person and all the police procedural parts were entertaining for their absolute believably. One of the reasons I tend to stay away from this genre is all the pieces of the story that are expected to be there, like super concerned cops or the story getting the one cop who cares or the one that was amazing but just got divorced or has an problem with alcoholism after the one case they never solved. These guys were all normal and responding in ways that I would expect actual cops to respond rather than the stuff I see on television. I appreciated that even her best friend and boyfriend only humored her because of her past and that it was a bad anniversary for her.
I especially enjoyed that it was a mystery that wasn't about a cop solving a case, even though there are plenty of cops in the book. Personally, I'm sick to death of cop shows and cop stories. Don't get me wrong, I think cops mostly do as good as they can with what they have and I know that's different from county to county. I absolutely respect them, but these sensationalized crime stories are grating on my nerves and the concepts of criminals forming some sort of bond to the cop who usually gets their case and blah blah, snore. Anyway, this was not one of those stories, and I adored the cop who even pokes fun at that.
There are triggers to be concerned with in this book, specifically rape, suicide and murder. I'm not calling these spoilers though, because they are all part of Daphne's back story and revealed in the first two chapters as such. Whether or not they happen again later in the story is another matter....
Anyway, they are part of Daphne's motivation so they will come up a lot in the story as her character progresses through the plot. If these things trigger you, I wouldn't pick up the book. But then again, if they're problems, I'm sure you aren't reading mystery novels in the first place since most cover these topics.
Like I said above, I had gotten this book as a Kindle First back in March, but it's still available at Amazon for both Kindle and Audible and other places.