Ooooooh. What should be one of the best, dark reads on my shelf turns out to be one of the dullest.
Jude needs a safe haven. She remembers finding some dusty old treasures in the oldest bookstore in a town full of old bookstores; Lowland Glen Books. This seems as good a place as any in a pinch. It so happens that Lowell, the bookshop’s somewhat scramble-brained owner, needs an assistant and also knows of an affordable rental. So what that the rental is the grave-digger’s cottage? It just means Jude will have quiet neighbors.
But the books in the shop, as well as the people in the graveyard, have stories to tell.
Seriously … what a great premise! A dusty, old bookshop in a remote Scottish village. Throw in a neighboring graveyard, and you’ve got the makings of one heck of a great dark thriller. So where did this go wrong?
Let’s start with the story. First off, it’s not a thriller. It’s not a horror story. It’s a cozy mystery. A cozy mystery. Meaning nothing bad is going to happen on the page. That gorgeous dark cover … ? Totally misleading. But assuming we like ‘cozies’ (we don’t, typically) even a cozy mystery has a mystery that is integral to the story-telling. And while there are mysteries here (more than one), they aren’t satisfactorily addressed. Jude tries to solve the mystery of Lowell, but the biggest mystery hits the reader at the beginning – why does Jude have to get out of town so fast? – and is barely addressed until quite late in the book.
So if the story isn’t building and piquing the reader’s interest, what are we doing for 300+ pages? We’re developing characters, of course. I mean, a great character can carry a book through a weak plot if we are interested in the person. But here, too, we’re out of luck. These characters are completely flat. Instead of boosting a story with energy and letting the reader get comfortable with either a familiar or loveable character, we’re given two main characters who talk a lot at each other but don’t ever seem truly interesting or interested in the other.
And finally, the writing itself. The author’s writing style here is more chaotic than the character of Lowell (who feels like he should be chaotic). Sometimes I just couldn’t follow a sentence. Sometimes I didn’t understand what was going on. The writing style definitely didn’t help the dull characters or the slow-developing plot.
Two stars seems a little high, given how much I didn’t care for this, but I still think the premise is outstanding and worth a star just for that, and I also learned something … something interesting enough to write down and research later. That’s worth half a star, which rounds up to make this two stars.
Looking for a good book? Don’t be fooled by the cover art or the hyperbole from a marketing copywriter, Quiet Neighbors by Catriona McPherson is a slow, dull, cozy mystery.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
* * * * * *
author: Catriona McPherson
publisher: Midnight Ink
hardcover, 341 pages