Mainly Murder Press (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0-9825899-2-1 (0982589921)
ISBN-13: 978-0-9825899-2-2 (9780982589922)
Publication Date: April 2010
List Price: $14.95
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Review: Master microbrewer Hera Knightsbridge has more than just financial troubles on her mind when she's accused of murdering a competitor in A Deadly Draught, the first mystery in this series by Lesley A. Diehl.
Hera desperately needs a loan to keep her microbrewery in upstate New York afloat. She left law school and took over the operation following the suicide of her father, and though she knows her craft, she's in a bit over her head. But one of her neighborly competitors, the owner of Ramford Beer, wants to buy her out and is leaning on the bank to stall any decision on her loan. She agrees to meet Ramford one night to discuss a potential financial arrangement, only to find him dead, his head bashed in. Though she had motive and opportunity, there are plenty of other suspects in their close-knit community who had reason to kill him. Working together with Jake, a former law school lover and now a local police officer, they learn that Ramford's murder be related to the death of Hera's own father.
A Deadly Draught is an ambitious start to a series, though with far too many layers to it. As a craft- or theme-driven cozy, it isn't, well, cozy enough, having an overly complicated plot and not sufficiently engaging the reader in what happens. Part of the problem here may be that the writing often seems flat and uninspired, not as polished as it could be. Hera Knightsbridge is an appealing character, and there are some interesting side notes on the brewing of beer, but overall too much attention is focused on her; given how it all unfolds, it might have been preferable for Hera to play a role in the story rather than being the story.
Still, it's easy to see potential for both the character and the series. A Deadly Draught may just be a shaky first step.
Special thanks to Mainly Murder Press for providing a copy of A Deadly Draught for this review.
Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
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Synopsis (from the publisher): The lack of water and capital could put master beer brewer Hera Knightsbridge out of business ... and then things get worse. Much worse. Money is always a problem for Hera's microbrewery, but now water is scarce, as well. Worse, Hera discovers a rival brewer murdered in her Butternut Valley brew barn, making her the authorities' favorite suspect. To clear her name, Hera joins forces with local lawman Jake Ryan, her former lover from law school days. There's unfinished business between these two, and the sparks fly as they pursue a killer who has targeted Hera as his next victim.
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