The cozy, pragmatic everyday of horses, sheep, and farm life, and Annalisse’s own grounded personality, neatly counterbalance the excesses of Alec’s rarified world and the drama of the mystery. The story is welcoming and vibrant, and much of it is nuanced and warm. That care unfortunately falls short in one area: Annalisse’s hateful comments on other women’s bodies—notably her cousin Jillian’s weight—and repeated descriptions of antagonists as ugly. This pettiness risks alienating readers who expect a light, fun story.
The fine mechanics of a whodunit are derailed by multiple subplots and threats—including murder, blackmail, kidnapping, sexual assault, and a love triangle—that undermine one another’s urgency and can make Alec’s romantic gestures feel awkwardly mistimed. Several threads are left unresolved, and the answers to many questions fall into Alec and Annalisse’s laps through accident and luck. But when Bell aims for fun adventure, she hits the bull’s-eye. This mystery will appeal to readers who want to fall into intense moments of danger and lyrical descriptions of breezes rustling through maple trees.
Takeaway: Atmospheric descriptions will draw fans of thrilling stories to this romantic rural whodunit.
Great for fans of Sarah Barrie’s Hunters Ridge series, Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache novels.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: B