Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Review of "Dead By Midnight" [33]

Dead by Midnight: A Death on Demand Mystery by Carolyn Hart
William Morrow, ISBN 978-0061914973
March 29, 2011, 288 pages

In this, the 21st (yes, 21st!) in Carolyn Hart's “Death on Demand” series, we are once again in the lovely South Carolina island town of Broward's Rock, and bookstore owner Annie Darling, with some assistance from her husband Max, is thick in the midst of mystery and murder.

Business is quite good in the store, so at the recommendation of a friend, she hires Pat Merridew, recently fired from her job as the long time receptionist at the local law firm of Jamison, Jamison and Brewster, to help out. But the help doesn't last long, because in a short period of time, Pat is found dead, an apparent suicide. The police chief seems satisfied that this is where the evidence points and is ready to wrap things up, but Annie, especially after a little investigation on her own, thinks it was foul play. She finds that Pat was planning an expensive trip to Alaska that seems at odds with her financial situation and was taking some late night excursions that may have led her to see something she was not meant to see at the house of her old boss, Glen Jamison. Then there are those photos on her Blackberry that beg for an explanation and some physical evidence at her house that does not add up.

When Glen Jamison, the dead woman's old boss, turns up murdered, there are any number of suspects, including his much younger, second wife, his mooching cousin and another soon to be laid off employee. But number one on the list is his sister Elaine, seem by Annie herself throwing something into the swamp behind the house just after the time that the murder took place. Annie is convinced the police are looking at the murders all wrong and that the two deaths must be connected...that the murderer is still on the loose and may kill again to stay that way.

I have not read any of the previous books in this series, and honestly, at 20 books, I doubt I will ever catch up. But Hart is enough of a pro to make this book easily work as a standalone.
Now, I am not a big reader of cozy mysteries, usually liking my murders a little more gritty, but there is a lot to like about this story. First of all there is the setting. Island, beaches, boating, fishing all add up to excellent in my book. And then there is the fact that Annie not only owns a bookstore but a mystery bookstore..and a charming sounding mystery bookstore at that. If I lived in Broward's Rock...and I can totally see that too....I would be in that bookstore all the time. Throw in lots of mentions of various mystery writers and mystery books and all the setting lacks is a lighthouse to be perfect. I did have one complaint though. This book is full of cats, real cats and artistically rendered cats, cats all over the place but not one dog! Really, that seems unfair!

Annie is a great character, although for some reason I can't say I was as fond of her husband Max. It is a minor issue, since he does not play a huge part in this book at least and Annie more than makes up for it. She is funny and clever and fast to pick up a clue. And lots of clues there are, which if you are smart enough will allow you to figure out the mystery. Something I admit I did not. But once the mystery is solved and the murderer revealed, everything ties in nicely. Add in a good supporting cast and you have all the making of a solid, entertaining book that fans of the series will enjoy and that, no doubt, will add more than a few more fans to Ms. Hart's Death on Demand series.

My thanks to the author and the publisher for providing a copy of this book for review.


  1. 20 books is heavy duty for a series...like the Kinsey Millhone series or the Prey series. But these always sound good, and there is the whole bookstore angle. It is intimidating, though, to jump into this with 20 already out there. I like to read them all, but that isn't going to happen.

  2. This is an author that I recently saw at an event in AZ. I have read all of the 20 previous books in this series and it's a favorite of mine. Was amazing to hear Carolyn Hart speak about her books and writing processes. She gave us a bit of inside info on this one as we discussed why readers like mysteries and her thoughts on why is "not" a cozy writer. Glad it worked for you. 20 is a lot to catch up on. One of my favorites in the series is THE CHRISTIE CAPER, which includes a special convention honoring the famous Agatha. It's Carolyn's tribute to a favorite author. I've read it more than once for the Christie trivia alone. :-)


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