POOR EXECUTION OF A GOOD PREMISE
Kate Foster, along with her mother, owns the Summerside Inn, a restored historic mansion in a small coastal town near New York City. Kate is also an obsessive personality, checklists attached to a clipboard serving as the bastion between her and mental chaos. She is also a severe asthmatic whose attacks are triggered psychologically.
The story opens the day after the disastrous arrival at the Inn by Samantha Manning, a noted accommodations and services critic from NYC. Samantha had grown up in Summerside, had gone to school with Kate, and had bullied Kate verbally and maliciously all those years. That maliciousness was put on display for all to see at dinner the previous evening. Now, on the morning that our book opens, a maid finds Samantha dead in her room, strangled.
And at this point, the author flips a switch and turns a perfectly good premise for a cozy romantic suspense into a ludicrous mess. She wrote the 911 call and the actions of the operator in a manner that would be totally unbelievable and unacceptable for even a backwoods boonie location, let alone a resort suburb of New York. And she mauled the police procedures badly throughout the book, including the most basic issues of when a warrant is necessary for search of a victim’s premises.
But the murder mystery part is not the only plot thread Harper mauls. The author’s initial portrayal of Kate Foster is light-hearted and humorous. It did not take too many pages to realize, through Kate’s internal monologues, that she is not light-hearted or humorous at all. For a person with enough education and intelligence to own, restore and run a large full-service inn, she is remarkably fearful and naïve. As I continued to read her thoughts and actions, my assessment of her character, OCD or not, changed from thinking her naïve, shallow and vapid to thinking her annoying, then to thinking of her as just being pathetic. She does have a few redeemable moments, mostly towards the end when she confronts the murderer and then the detective. However, those moments are too few to save the overall impression.
Adding to the poor research of police procedures and to the poor characterization of the main protagonist is poor editing. There are significant punctuation errors, including the frequent and incredibly annoying use of a period and double space after the salutation “Miss.” There are word transpositions and undeleted corrections. But the most glaring error in word usage was the substitution of the word “odometer” for “speedometer” when the detective is clearly checking to see how fast Kate is driving. Either the author does not drive a car or, considering the other editing errors, she has need of a different beta reading team.
When I started this novel, I was looking for a light romantic suspense to buffer the mental turmoil of having just finished, one after another, three rather intense mainstream murder thrillers. Unfortunately, I did not find what I was looking for here.
Cover Art from Goodreads