Death by the Book
About This Book
When the village of Farthering St. John is stunned by a series of murders, Drew Farthering is drawn again into the sleuthing game.
Drew Farthering wanted nothing more than to end the summer of 1932 with the announcement of his engagement. Instead, he finds himself caught up in another mysterious case when the family solicitor is found murdered, an antique hatpin with a cryptic message, Advice to Jack, piercing his chest.
Evidence of secret meetings and a young girl’s tearful confession point to the victim’s double life, but what does the solicitor’s murder have to do with the murder of a physician on the local golf course? Nothing, it would seem—except for another puzzling note, affixed with a similar-looking bloodied hatpin.
Soon the police make an arrest in connection with the murders, but Drew isn’t at all certain they have the right suspect in custody. And why does his investigation seem to be drawing him closer and closer to home?
This book absolutely blew my expectations out of the water! The writing sparkled even more than the first book, with a perfectly subdued spiritual message that still showed the character’s maturity, and danger, danger everywhere!
Deering’s prose is one of my favorite things about this whole series. There is a tongue-in-cheek flavor to her writing that brings the characters and their setting to brilliant life. I was marking favorite passages from the very opening paragraph. The dialogue in these books is always witty and colorful while still enhancing the story, and this book was no exception. The banter between Drew and the police, or Drew and his friends, was among some of my favorite passages in the whole story.
Drew was definitely front and center in this book, with trusty sidekicks Madeline and Nick taking more of a back seat than they did in Rules of Murder. Drew clearly matured a bit since that story, and while there are still unresolved questions about his past, there was nothing that needed to be answered or revealed in this installment. I had a very real sense of trying to navigate Drew’s strange new world right along with him: new heir to a business, new lord of the manor, a new faith, a blossoming romance, and once again a series of murder to solve. He had a “one thing at a time, please” attitude that I felt was very relatable, and also enjoyable to watch as murder and mayhem never let him deal with just one thing at a time.
Aunt Ruth was a wonderful new addition to the story and I hope she sticks around for more. The reluctant partnership between Drew and Chief Inspector Birdsong was hilarious; I loved the way he always sarcastically referred to Drew as “Detective Farthering.” Each of the minor characters associated with the murders, while there were many, were distinctly written, had their own unique personalities that added depth to the story and the mystery. And the villain turned out to be a deliciously tour-de-force psychopath I never saw coming. I literally realized who the murderer was at the exact same time Drew did, and was much on the edge of my seat as he was. It was a great Deep-POV moment as a reader!
The English countryside of 1932 is practically its own character in this series, it is so vivid and well written, and clearly is the direct result of thorough knowledge and research on Deering’s part. While this book didn’t have to spend time laying the foundations of story place and time like the first book did, it nevertheless added just enough to that initial story world to make the city streets and country villages come to life in my mind. This is definitely a book—and a series—that you look forward to reading because you want to escape into this world.
While this is not a romantic genre per se, Drew does have a love interest in his crime-solving partner Madeline Parker, and their relationship has grown more intentional in this second installment. The arrival of Aunt Ruth and a prospective American suitor added complexity and tension to this otherwise chaste romance, and while the characters have several passionate embraces, they are never graphically described, nor do they cross any moral boundaries. on the contrary, Drew and Madeline make a point of keeping their budding romance completely chaste before marriage, even while acknowledging their desires for more—a very realistic dilemma readers will no doubt appreciate.
Madeline was borderline preachy in the previous book while Drew was essentially agnostic until his “conversion” moment near the end. As such, Madeline takes a spiritual back seat in this sequel as we see Drew learning to embrace his new faith in all aspects of his everyday life. His faith is very real and personal, and we see him striving to live it. Spiritual conversations are subdued until the very end of this book, when the prospect of soon meeting his Maker forces Drew to reflect on his faith journey and his readiness to die. Even then, his words and actions are simple and sincere, and never out of context with the story or scene. Overall, the spiritual lives of the characters were well-balanced within the story and very appropriate to the historical time, place and action.
I loved how Deering incorporated Shakespeare and other famous writers into this story. This is a great example of the Cozy Mystery genre and yet turns the whole genre on its head by having a young man as the amateur sleuth instead of an elderly woman. If this were a movie, it would be PG-13. Adults will want to read this first, as some of the questionable content may raise questions for younger readers. This will appeal to fans of Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie, Midsomer Murders and the like. As it is part of a series and references certain characters and events from the previous book (including the fate of that story’s murderer), readers may wish to read Rules of Murder in order to fully appreciate this sequel. This book has easy cross-over potential and I would have no problem recommending it to Christian and non-Christian friends alike. The whole Drew Farthering series would be excellent source material for movies or a TV show, and there is a ton of potential for this series to continue indefinitely.
I wouldn’t change a single word of this story, but conservative readers should beware that, in terms of potentially questionable content, infidelity and unwanted pregnancies play a prominent role in the story. Many characters smoke and/or consume alcohol on a regular basis. Foul language is inferred more than once but never explicitly used.
With the complexity of Conan Doyle, the charm of Miss Marple, and the panache of P.G. Wodehouse, Julianna Deering’s second installment in the Drew Farthering series builds upon the characters and events of Rules of Murder to bring us an even richer, funnier, bloodier new mystery to solve. Skillful writing and flawless period detail combine to create a highly enjoyable story that is perfectly at home in its cozy genre while delighting readers with authentic history, sweet romance and spine-tingling suspense. The next book cannot be released soon enough for me!
Available March 4, 2014 from Bethany House Publishers