GOOD MYSTERY, BAD CONTINUITY WITH PREVIOUS NOVELS
Kate Burkholder and John Tomasetti are taking a weekend off from their various policing duties, intending to spend the two days together at an old country inn several hours from Painters Mill. They have spent nights together as lovers and they have spent days together as co-investigators on multiple high-profile murder cases. However, this is the first time they have tried to spend both nights and days together strictly as lovers. This is a big move for each of their scarred souls and for their relationship.
When John checks them in to the old Victorian-style B&B, he happens to mention their resident ghost he had read about on a travel website. And then he wishes he had kept his mouth shut.
It seems that the ghost is not a centuries-old Victorian specter. She is a young girl who disappeared from the inn only 22 years prior, leaving nothing behind but a stack of bloody clothes on the riverbank by the inn.
So much for an idyllic, romantic getaway. Justice, no statute of limitations on murder, memorial gravestones on the riverbank – such things just can’t be ignored, it seems. Besides, the weather has turned cold and rainy and who wants to hike the river trails in those conditions anyway!
The story is short, about 75% of the Kindle file downloaded, and concise. Through finely developed observational skills as well as an incident of happenstance (as opposed to coincidence), Kate and John solve the mystery within a day. And in the end, it is not that Kate and John are better than the detectives who investigated so long ago. Neither incompetence nor shoddy work ethics were the cause of the police department’s failure at that time or since. They were simply barking up the wrong branch of the right tree.
Even though Linda Castillo achieved a nearly perfect blend of mystery and romance with a believable conclusion to both in such a short story, I still feel the need to drop the rating on the entry. And that choice has everything to do with backstory and editing.
Castillo only puts out a novel in this series once a year. The four entries prior to this short story have been well-executed in terms of story arc and consistent from novel to novel with respect to backstory and passage of time. They are clearly professionally edited with respect to consistency and continuity and with respect to typesetting and formatting.
Not so with this short story. All these aspects – execution of story arc, backstory, and formatting – come up short.
First, there are multiple formatting errors. Most of these consist of missing words, repeated words and spaces deleted between successive words. And these increase in frequency as the story nears completion.
Secondly, the backstory has a glaring inconsistency. Early in the entry, Kate states that she and John have known each other for 3 years. But she also states that it has been only 3 years since John’s family was murdered. However, if the last four books are to be believed, she has only known John for about 2 years at this point and she didn’t meet him until more than a year had passed since his family’s deaths. And there are multiple references to the Mast case, the subject of the previous book, in this short. Since Kate had only know John for a year and a half at that point and only a few months have passed since the case’s conclusion, all those “3’s” look like mistakes that weren’t caught, just like the formatting errors.
However, the real issue that affected my rating was the manner in which Castillo handled a portion of the romantic subplot. As part of that scenario, John talks to Kate about the possibility of them living together. The way Castillo phrases Kate’s response seems to indicate that this is new to Kate and the first time that the idea has been broached. NOT SO! The question of them living together came up in the previous novel and it was a big, big factor in that entry. So big, in fact, that it was almost a deal-breaker in their relationship. Thus, to treat it as if it were a new situation in this short story is a slap in the reader’s face.
The bottom line here is that a short story teaser put out only six weeks prior to a major release should be as professionally sound as the author’s full-length publications. Castillo’s works are expensive, both in printed and electronic formats. Thus, if a reader believes that the author’s quality has slipped, that reader may not purchase the next book, opting for their local library instead, if at all.
Cover Art From Goodreads