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The Brim Reaper (Style & Error Mystery #3)
Diane Vallere
A Rendezvous to Die For - Betty McMahon After some heavy reading of late, this novel by Betty McMahon was a refreshingly easy, breezy book to read. As a detective-ish novel in the “Cassandra Cassidy Mystery” series, I didn’t expect that I would like it much, but when I jumped in, McMahon’s simple, journalistic style of writing was snappy and easy to follow, and kept my attention. A perfect book for a vacation or business trip read: it’s light, quick, and engaging.

The story is set against a rural backdrop in Colton Mills, Minnesota, modern day, and the locale plays host to native American Indians and fur-trading reenactment participants who replay the lifestyle of the 1830’s pioneers. The story opens at a rendezvous, a cultural and historical replay of pioneer days, complete with period dress, fur trapping and hatchet throwing competitions. I dreamily wished that McMahon had taken the history of the place a little deeper, offering us more insight into those times. It would have been a grand opportunity to delve into the rich history and culture of that part of our country. I was left wanting a lot more. I had hoped to learn about the attraction of that era, and why modern people are driven to keep those traditions alive today.

Our heroine, Cassandra Cassidy, is a 30-something self-employed photographer who recently moves to this kitchy Minnesota town where everyone knows your business, where the local bar and the local coffee shop fill your drink order when you walk in the door, and where mischief simply must lurk to shake up this sleepy place. The mischief is murder—not one, but three, in quick succession, and our heroine finds herself not only as a witness, but as a prime suspect hounded by police and a target of the serial killer! It’s a little far-fetched, granted, but one never forgets that one is reading a novel, after all.

One thing I liked immensely about McMahon’s style is that the story moves in a definable way from point A to point B; in other words, although the author uses descriptive imagery to set the plot and the characters, she doesn’t drown in them, and you have no trouble keeping all the players and places straight. Perhaps her journalism and editing background came in handy. In the end, despite a wide cast of interesting characters, her writing style and the choices she makes help keep things neat and orderly.

The murder story weaves through the town impacting and encroaching everyone in its path, until everyone is either hiding something or knows someone who is—which is typical of small towns. My small disappointments were 1) when I felt our gal Cassidy was placed in an unrealistically high number of dangerous situations 2) when I determined who the killer was, about half-way through the book 3) when Cassandra’s scar and fear of fire were never explained 4) when several typos appeared in the text, hopefully more editor error than author. Even so, I enjoyed the likeable characters and the crisp pace, and read it in two days flat. And I closed the cover more entertained than I thought I would be.

Alicia C. Accardi
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