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Tuesday, April 9, 2019

#NetGalley Book Review: Trouble on the Books by Essie Land

I liked the setting and premise of this cozy mystery.
Trouble on the Books
by Essie Lang

File Size: 2896 KB
Print Length: 332 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1683319818
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books (March 13, 2019)
Genre: Amateur Sleuth, Cozy Mystery
My Rating: 3.75 of 5.0

Essie Lang’s series debut is perfect for fans of Lorna Barrett, Vicki Delany, and book lovers everywhere.
Rookie bookstore owner Shelby Cox must hit the books to learn the ropes before she loses a killer in the stacks.
Shelby Cox never intended to become a bookseller, so when the former editor returns to her hometown of Alexandria Bay, nestled in upstate New York’s breathtaking Thousand Islands region, to take over her aunt’s bookstore, she has no idea what to expect. To her amazement, she discovers that she now owns a fifty-percent share in Bayside Books, and will also run the store’s second location in the majestic castle on nearby Blye Island.
But just as Shelby is gearing up for the start of the tourist season, the Castle volunteer coordinator is found murdered in the nearby Grotto. Castle caretaker Matthew Kessler is suspect number one, but Shelby thinks the killing may be connected to an earlier era, when violence among Prohibition-era smugglers was rampant in the region. As Shelby launches her own investigation, handsome and unnerving Special Agent Zack Griffin of the Coast Guard Investigative Services tries to quell her smuggling theory and keep her safe. But Shelby is determined to summon all her savvy as a book editor to plot the murder—and find the killer before he strikes again—in Trouble on the Books, Essie Lang’s clever and captivating series debut.

Shelby Cox who normally works as a publishing editor in the Massachusetts, comes home to Alexandria Bay, upstate New York, to help her Aunt who is recovering from surgery. Shelby is surprised to learn that she is a 50% owner in two local bookstores, one in town and a second location in the tourist destination of Blye Castle on Blye Island. Shelby begins work and quickly runs up against the autocratic Castle volunteer coordinator, Loreena. A few hours after they have a confrontation, Shelby stumbles upon Loreena’s body in the nearby Grotto.

Several police offices are involved in the investigation: the cantankerous Island Chief of Police, the quiet county sheriff and, to Shelby’s surprise, the interesting and handsome Coast Guard Special Agent Zack Griffin. The local chief is quick to challenge the Castle caretaker, Matthew, which upsets Aunt Edie. Edie asks Shelby to try to find out what is going on. Shelby begins to develop a theory of current day smuggling which brings Zack to her door on several occasions trying to get her to stop snooping.

Shelby is also trying to learn more about her mother who she believes died when she was a toddler. Shelby’s technique of investigating both issues consists mostly in questioning local residents. This puts someone on edge, but despite an attack on her houseboat, Shelby continues to try to plot out the means, motive and opportunity.

Stories involving books and bookstores tend to capture my attention. I liked the setting elements of the bookstore, the Castle grounds, the Grotto, and the houseboat where Shelby lives. The descriptions are good and the character interaction is reasonably developed. I found the mystery development and suspense a little weak. There is some repetition of Shelby’s thought processes which could have been cut allowing for a shorter, more concise work. As a debut I think the work shows promise and I would try another to see if the mystery plot improves. Fans of book related cozy mysteries might give this a try.

Source: NetGalley 2018. This qualifies for 2019TBR and 2019NetGalley Goals.


  1. Hi Martha,

    The Goodreads ratings and reviews for this one are a little weak, with many of the comments echoing your own concerns about repetitive dialogue.

    However, as regards the storyline, I too am a sucker for any book or bookshop related plot and 'cozy' mysteries are meant to be feel-good reads, not works of literary expertise.

    I couldn't read from the genre on too regular a basis, any more than I could read only cheesy romances, but every once in a while they make a great break from more serious tomes, which is exactly where 'Trouble on the Books' seems to sit.

    A nice even-handed review, thanks for sharing :)


  2. For a debut it sounds pretty good! I'd been wondering about this one :)

  3. Great review. This sounds like an interesting story even though the author does some repetitive dialogue. I think I'm going to find this book and give it a try. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings about this story with us.


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