A mystery of murders during a “Murder and Mayhem week”, amid “some role-playing and fantasy crime solving”. Now that’s one juicy premise. Alas, a juicy premise is necessary, but never sufficient after all to make a compelling read.

A widower Jane Stewart works as a manager at her ageing great-aunt and -uncle’s storybook resort. Things go awry for her when during her planned Murder and Mayhem week, one of her guests is murdered and the book he had won as part of a scavenger hunt is missing. It is now Jane’s responsibility - not just as the resort manager, but as a guardian to the treasure the book was part of - to find the real-killer and the missing book.

This is such a simple plot that could very well have been penned into a riveting mystery. But it wasn’t. I was so close to give up on this books at one moment - actually that was right at the moment it stopped being a murder mystery and veered into at attempted thriller around a treasure trove. Plot is thin. Writing is barely passable. Mystery is poorly narrated. There just isn’t enough suspense and urgency to hold the reader’s attention. A straight forward story, narrated in an extremely amateurish manner.

A word on the writing first, I think the way the book started was pretty promising. Author Ellery Adams did have a nice plot at her hands. However, the way she chose to present it is so unlike a murder mystery typically is. I wasn’t involved enough to care for anyone who was dead because the characters just weren’t built well. Add to that, a reader was informed, told, that a person was murdered – never shown. For that matter, every thing that happens is told to the reader, not shown. And that’s where lies the biggest fault of the novel.

An inclination from the author to kick start a series by making this much bigger than a simple, cozy murder mystery didn’t help either. All it does is introduce a string of unnecessary subplots and a meandering ending that attempts to set ground for books to come.

A murder mystery needs a meaty plot, strong characters and succinct narration. Unfortunately, this books fails on all count for me. Jane, the protagonist, doubts at multiple points in the book if she is worthy to be the guardian of a family secret; wishes if she had just been a Resort Manager. I, as a reader, wished the same.

My rating: 2 of 5 stars