This month, as part of my series of entries on the most popular and recommended mystery series for the site, I decided to read the first entry in Stephanie Blackmoore‘s Wedding Planner Mystery Series, Engaged in Death.
This first novel in the series doesn’t start with the sleuth giving up her big-time job in the big-time city to go to live in the scenic countryside, though name of the series does give a strong clue that this is going to be her eventual destination. Instead, it begins a little bit before most Cozies do – the protagonist, Mallory Shepard, is still living her life pre-Cozy-fication, going through her job as a lawyer, and engaged to a no-good-fiance (Keith) with an unpleasant family (Keith’s controlling mother, Helene). That said, this part of the novel passes fairly quickly, with the inevitable and unsurprising discovery that the no-good-fiance is in fact no good.
At the same time, Mallory suddenly inherits a piece of property, though the source is a bit less conventional than in many Cozies – she inherits it not from her own favorite aunt/grandma, but from her no-good-fiance’s grandmother Sylvia, who obviously didn’t exactly care for Keith or Helene but was surprisingly close with Mallory. So, Mallory goes down to take ownership of the property, joined by her unreliable little sister, Rachel, who has uncharacteristically come to offer support – possibly because she is at loose ends after having more characteristically dropped out of college again.
The bad news is that the piece of property, in this case a run-down but still impressive mansion named Thistle Park, is located in Port Quincy, Pennsylvania – the same town that Hellene lives in. As a result, Mallory isn’t exactly sure what to do with the house – she doesn’t want to live there, as it is too far from her work in Pittsburgh, besides being located uncomfortably close to her almost-mother-in-law.
Fortunately, the property does have some people interested in it, even in its current dilapidated condition – a gas company thinks that they can make a lot of money fracking, and are willing to pay top dollar for the land alone, uninterested in the house currently on it. Still, Mallory is reluctant because she knows that Sylvia loved the house and wanted to keep it intact, so she initially turns down the offer, shoving the unpleasant salesman when he refuses to leave initially. Mallory decides to sleep on the offer – but unfortunately, the salesman comes back at some point in the night, and even more unfortunately for him, someone murders him on the lawn of Thistle Park. Naturally, Mallory and her sister Rachel seem like prime suspects, so they’ll need to solve the crime while trying to decide what to do with the property and their lives from here on out (and again, spoiler in the series title).
All told, Engaged in Death is a well-done example of a conventional modern Cozy. There are a lot of enjoyable elements of the genre that fans are sure to be able to latch onto. It may not do much particularly new in the spot, but it certainly does a good enough job of presenting an enjoyable mystery in an interesting, likable area.
P.S. If you are interested in reading some of the other entries about highly recommended Cozy Mystery series, you can find them at the Most Recommended Cozy Mystery Series page on the site.