Friday, February 11, 2022

Cozies by Lauren Elliott! Beyond The Page Mystery Series! - First Four!

Most of the time when I turn to cozy book reading, I'm feeling a need to just take a break and enjoy reading...just for that joy of reading!

With cozies, I normally look for my two favorite things: cats or books! So, of course, popular cozy author, Lauren Elliott, caught my eye! Literally... The Beyond the Page Series always centers around something that has happened in relation to books--stolen, hidden, or maybe even a counterfeit before the series ends... What we do know is that the main character, Addie Greybourne, is the amateur detective, who is constantly involved, no matter that the police don't want her assistance...but, normally, winds up using much of what Addie has discovered to solve the case. Traditional cozy format, no tough mystery to solve when Addie is out there! 

For me, it is always the characters that drive cozies... The fact that most of those lead characters happen to be women--well, that's just fine with me... Some men even write under a female name because he knows that women are the primary consumer of all things cozy or amateur investigator, as the book publishers are trying to use... Seriously, cozy is just right, isn't it? What you need to accompany your reading is nothing more than, maybe, coffee or tea based upon your preference... and even a snack... The key issue is that we can sit back and relax... with a little frivolity in most instances! 

“Yes, and it helped having a friend who is related to the investigating officer.” Addie winked. “And he’s taunted me my whole life, as you saw. Brothers.” Serena shuddered. “Well, I’d best be off.” “You know, before you go, think about this and tell me if I’m crazy or not—but I’m thinking now . . . and wondering . . . if there were perhaps, um . . . two people involved, not just the fellow Martha chased off.” “What makes you say that?” Serena’s hand paused on the door latch. “’Cause she said he ran off, not drove toward Birch Road, and we weren’t outside long enough for him to run around the two blocks and come back in the front door.”  “What are you saying? That it was planned?” “Yes, and the guy in the lane was just a diversion to get us outside. That there was someone else on the street waiting till we were distracted.” “Hum, but why? It was only the books that were messed up, and the only one that you said appears to be missing is a copy of Alice in Wonderland, and none of your collectibles were stolen, so I don’t get it.”

Beyond the Page series begins when the main character, not surprisingly, inherits from her aunt... And, of course, she was wealthy beyond all expectation, so that the relative is in awe... Trite? Not really! You'd be surprised what can be discovered in a surprise inheritance... Many times, the one who inherited was perhaps chosen because of their own love for, say, books, as was Addie... But one important angle was added... Greyborne is an important historical name in the area. Some welcomed her; some already hated her...

But Addie is one of those who can strive to find her place in a new community and prove her worth and value. After all, she had a professional background and experience in research and appraisal... just waiting to be tapped for solving a murder mystery, at least one per book, please... and Thank You... Preferably, however, not to have the potential investigator be charged for that murder... As occurred in Murder By The Book. But that has a bright spot, when she meets Marc, the local chief of police!

The Greyborne Harbor Daily News . . . Page 6 Continued from Page 5—Around Town Finally, Miss Newsy asks the question on everyone’s mind today: was it an alien abduction, which is the theory of some, or is the mysterious disappearance of local librarian June Winslow something far more sinister? 
Many Greyborne Harbor residents are asking that very question today; I know I am. What is really behind her disappearance, and who would have the most to gain by her sudden departure from the Harbor? Reports were made by Mrs. Winslow’s daughter of shaking ground and strange, flashing lights when she began searching for her mother, who failed to return home from a book club meeting. The report of unusual seismic activity in the area at the time in question was confirmed by Dr. Peterson, a seismology expert at Boston University. 
He is quoted as saying, “These disturbances did not warrant strong enough seismic activity to have opened up the ground and swallow anyone.” 
The local utility department also confirmed that a minor power surge did occur at the time in question. However, there was no lightning bolt activity, and the fleeting surge caused no reported damage to infrastructure and posed no threat to citizens. So, what really is behind this sudden departure of a much-loved and respected member of our community? Who would have the most to gain? Perhaps Addison Greyborne can tell us. It’s rumored that Miss Greyborne, owner of Beyond the Page—Books & Curios, may have more answers than she’s letting on. Being a librarian herself and the operator of an allegedly failing local business, she is most likely the one who could shed some light on the reason why there is currently an opening for head librarian at our beloved Harbor Library.

Soon Addie has opened a book and curio store, using many of the books found in her new Victorian home. She immediately realized that she needed somebody to help her with customers while she attended to other issues--often investigating! Two other business owners quickly become important characters... Serena, who owns a tea shop...and Martha who owns a bakers. Readers will quickly discover that Martha is not happy with Addie being next door. Even worse, when her daughter, Paige, is hired by Addie to work in her store, tensions mounts...

Then in Prologue to Murder, Addie continues to discover those in town who are upset she has come... When a column runs in the local news hinting that Addie knows more about the disappearance of the local librarian, she is once more...on the defense! Nothing can be done, however, since the innuendo is located in a gossip column, so there can't be any liability on the part of the writer. Addie seethes as she is once more pulled into finding out "who, what, when, and where..."

Marc is caught on the defense, while trying to work on his latest case, which now has him having to look at Addie... Marc, by the way, is the brother of Serena! Now that Addie and Serena are close friends, Marc is getting caught in the middle way too often. Still, he finds Addie more than...just...a...suspect! But Addie who lost both her father and fiancée is not ready to get serious...but... a little dating?

Addie settled onto a chair behind the desk in the back room, slid an antique letter opener along the edge of the manila envelope, and envisioned it was Jonathan’s black heart. A low growl escaped her throat. Hoping for happy news to distract her, she blew a wayward strand of honey-brown hair from her eyes, slid the enclosed papers out, and grinned. At last, it was the final report from her old coworker Kate at the Boston Library. The appraisal for Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol and the last thing Addie needed for the auction. Apparently, a certificate of authentication trumped her skilled knowledge of antique books. The book itself had since been returned, but for the auction, Addie needed this current market report and Kate’s certificate so the foundation could make as much money as possible from its sale. The report contained one surprise, but otherwise it was exactly as she thought it would be. Addie was pleased to see that she really hadn’t lost her touch. It was only too bad that she’d allowed her appraisers’ association membership to lapse. It wasn’t a requirement for appraisers to belong, but a member’s number on the documents added considerable credibility to an appraisal. 
Nonetheless, it was done now, and Teresa Lang would be more than pleased with the results. When Addie discovered the 1843 first edition book tucked in a box of Christmas decorations in her aunt’s attic, she knew then it was special. She was a little confused at the time as to why her aunt stored it in there, but knowing she was eccentric and did love hiding things, Addie shrugged it off. When she heard about the desperate need for donations this year to the annual Christmas Charity Auction fund-raiser, she decided, why not? It was perfect for the season and might bring in more money for the auction just because of that. 
Well, if truth were known, it took a little bit of persuading by her good friend the coroner, Dr. Simon Emerson, but once she’d offered it up as a donation, she had no regrets. As Simon had pointed out, Dickens himself was actively involved in social issues his entire life, so it seemed like the right thing to do.

Addie was enjoying her success with new friends, even a book club had been formed. And now, the annual charity auction was coming and, after thinking about it, Addie had decided to donate one of her rare book finds which had been hidden and just recently discovered as she continued to go through the attic and other spaces in her new home. A Christmas Carol By Charles Dickens was sure to bring an amount that would greatly help. Her past experience as an appraiser resulted in a good estimate of what it would sell for. But when Addie contacted a former coworker, she was able to get the book's value certified... It was worth even more than Addie anticipated!

Addie was shocked when the father of her fiancée came to visit. The loss of his son was still a fresh memory for both of them and Addie was not sure she wanted to deal with Jonathan Hemingway, who she remembered as a ladies' man. So when a good friend came by, she watched helplessly as Jonathan turned on his charm and had Catherine blushing and sighing at his attention!

At least he had a luncheon scheduled with another friend. But that didn't stop his interactions with Catherine. When Jonathan revealed that his luncheon was with Teresa Lang--who was heading up the Christmas auction, Addie's alert system went on high as she immediately wondered about the safety of her donation... It wasn't long before Addie went out to visit the auction site... Went looking for Teresa, discovered her body...and realized that the book was gone!

Simon Emerson, the coroner in town, is a new character that adds a potential love triangle for Addie. With both Marc and Simon vying for time and attention, Addie was even more concerned about Jonathan, who was now staying at Catherine's home! Men!

This novel grew in complexity, given the value of the stolen or lost book and given that Addie had made the donation, she was right in the middle of the investigation, whether Marc wanted her to be...or not...  Mainly because, first on her suspect list was Jonathan Hemingway, the father of her former fiancée.. But when the appraised value papers were also gone, it was clear that somebody was surely going to try to sell that book, rather than have it sold for charity... The list quickly grew for who might have done it... For she was sure of one thing, even if Marc was not... That the missing book was connected to the death of Teresa Lang. She just had to prove it!

Brian shoved the flat end of the crowbar into the crevice flanked by the door and frame and pried at it to the tune of cracking wood. “Got it!” He handed the bar back to Addie, who dropped it back in his tool bag as he swung the door open. The crowd of staff that had gathered in the hallway breathed a collective sigh of relief. 
“Back to work, everyone.” Blake clapped his hands together. “We’re live in less than an hour.” The group scurried off, leaving the three of them alone. 
“Thank you, Brian. You can add this little mishap to my bill.” Addie stepped past him, stuck her head inside and took a hasty glance around. “There’s no one in here.” 
“There has to be.” Blake came to her side. “The door was bolted from the inside.” 
“Take a look.” She waved her hand. “Do you see anyone? Oh, wait. What’s that?” She pointed to the desk chair turned away from them. “Is that Charlotte’s hand on the arm?” 
“See? I told you she was probably in here sleeping.” 
“Charlotte?” Addie called hesitantly as she moved toward the desk. With no reaction from the woman, Addie’s gut tightened. She reached for the chair and swiveled it toward her. The ghastly look on Charlotte’s face shook her to the core, and she clasped a hand over her mouth to stifle a scream...

Fourth in the Series, Proof of Murder, became my favorite. It's the classic dead body in a locked room... We all know that there is probably a hidden entrance to the room, but that doesn't ever stop the reader from working along to discover exactly what happened...and by whom! And enjoy discovering the hidden mysteries of a house reputed to be the home of...dead...earlier occupants. 

Once again, Addie is in the thick of things... An old coworker, Blake was in town to conduct an estate sale. Given that the inventory was running short at her store, Addie planned on going to see if she could find "stock" replacements. 

But, really, Addie was just interested enough to check out the old home that was reportedly haunted by ghosts, and to see Blake again. She was not thrilled to see another appraiser with whom she'd had some earlier conflicts. But, Addie, was willing to forget that and even volunteered to help do an inventory and appraisal  of a bookcase of books that had been just found and brought down to the library. Charlotte was the usual aggressive, unfriendly woman that she'd always been, but when Addie volunteered to help, she took her at her word...and quickly do other things... 

And speaking of ghosts, Paige, Addie's assistant in her store, was not only concerned about the gossip of ghosts where Addie was, but when she started seeing things at the store, she feared it was indeed a ghost upset with what was happening in its home... When Paige was the target of an attack, reporting she knew she had not seen anybody there, rumors increased! Addie was upset that she had depended too much on Paige and left her alone too often... Changes would have to be made! But, in the meantime, just how were things in the house were books about ghosts and the paranormal, seeming to jump off the shelves at the store... and how did Charlotte die--a natural death or murder?

One twist was that a cousin that Addie had not seen for ten years was in town and got caught up in helping Addie and she worked the entire day into evening... and then her cousin disappeared... Something like the disappearance of the contents of the house over the entire time that the auction was being planned--a music box, for instance, had been catalogued, but was now gone...

When Addie and her cousin had begun to get ready to leave, Charlotte came back and moved into the library to continue to oversee the final details... She had apparently locked the door and prepared to work until she was finished...

Or until she died...

And, of course, it was Addie that was there first thing the next morning and was able to walk into the library with Blake after the door had been forced open... First, Addie saw a hand... Then she turned the chair around and saw her face... Charlotte was clearly dead... Tea had been dropped on a book which Addie quickly picked up to try to save...and she took the time to look around, while Blake called the police... And quickly discovered that the original books by the author of Sherlock Holmes that were in the book case had been replaced with cheaper versions of that set of books! 
Her fingerprints were all over the room, including the new things near the body... So, of course, Marc had to consider her a suspect, especially since he was working with an FBI Agent who made it clear that she was in control of the case, while Marc, who had apparently met her at Quantico during his leave of absence, let her speak as lead investigator. Was Addie mad that Marc appeared to have moved on from their relationship...and was a little jealous...or did she really know that there was a strong case against her this time? Especially if it was left up to the FBI Agent!

Either way, Addie was hot on the trail of many... most of all her cousin, more concerned to see if something had happened to her since they were supposed to have hooked up again! 

Do you like book series? Enjoy cozy/amateur detective main characters, then I will quickly share that I enjoyed all four of the books read so far and recommend for both character development and traditional plots that somehow always wind up being different from any other cozy that you've read... 

But, be prepared, not all series are light and enjoyable... Interested in medical suspense thrillers?! Coming next!

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