Review: Shelved Under Murder (A Blue Ridge Library Mystery #2) by Victoria Gilbert

Review: Shelved Under Murder (A Blue Ridge Library Mystery #2) by Victoria Gilbert
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Crooked Lane Books. Thank you!
Publication: July 10, 2018 by Crooked Lane Books
Book Description:

October in Taylorsford, Virginia means it’s leaf peeping season, with bright colorful foliage and a delightful fresh crew of tourists attending the annual Heritage Festival which celebrates local history and arts and crafts. Library director Amy Webber, though, is slightly dreading having to spend two days running a yard sale fundraiser for her library. But during these preparations, when she and her assistant Sunny stumble across a dead body, Amy finds a real reason to be worried.

The body belonged to a renowned artist who was murdered with her own pallet knife. A search of the artist’s studio uncovers a cache of forged paintings, and when the sheriff’s chief deputy Brad Tucker realizes Amy is skilled in art history research, she’s recruited to aid the investigation. It doesn’t seem to be an easy task, but when the state’s art expert uncovers a possible connection between Amy’s deceased uncle and the murder case, Amy must champion her Aunt Lydia to clear her late husband’s name.

That’s when another killing shakes the quiet town, and danger sweeps in like an autumn wind. Now, with her swoon-inducing neighbor Richard Muir, Amy must scour their resources to once again close the books on murder in Shelved Under Murder, the charming second installment in Victoria Gilbert’s Blue Ridge Library mysteries, perfect for fans of Jenn McKinlay and Miranda James.

Shelved Under Murder is the strong sophomore entry in Victoria Gilbert’s Blue Ridge Library Mystery series, which is proving itself to be an intelligent and thoroughly pleasurable and engrossing cozy mystery series. Balancing thrills with warm, delightful characters, light romance and small-town dynamics, Shelved Under Murder is a great read.

The central mystery in Shelved Under Murder focuses on the death of a popular and acclaimed local artist- whose body happens to be discovered by our protagonist, library director/librarian Amy Webber and her boyfriend, professional dancer and choreographer Richard Muir. As the investigation- headed by chief deputy Brad Tucker, the current boyfriend of Amy’s library colleague Sunny- begins, what first appears as a puzzling but possibly uncomplicated homicide then turns into a rather thorny deep dive into the high stakes world of counterfeit art and forgeries. In book one, we learned that Amy’s Aunt Lydia, a prominent and much-respected figure in their town, had lost her husband years before in a car accident. Her late husband, Andrew Talbot, had himself been a local artist, though never as successful as Lydia and art dealer and former family friend Kurt Kendrick had thought he should have been. As the present-day murder investigation into the local artist continues and an art expert is flown into town, a new leads turn up: one of which might be involving Aunt Lydia’s deceased husband and his possible knowledge of a counterfeit art circle in Blue Ridge. Shelved Under Murder has, arguably, a less shocking or surprising murderer (or murders…!) at the center of the story than in A Murder for the Books; however, Gilbert raises the stakes by weaving in fascinating layers to Amy and Lydia’s family history and how Andrew Talbot’s art connections while alive still thrum in present-day Blue Ridge. It is absolutely worth noting as well that Amy continues to be a capable and lovely protagonist, and she, along neighbor-now-boyfriend Richard (also deeply likeable), make for a delightful team, both as a romantic couple and as amateur sleuths.

Overall, a strong second entry in a series I am already thoroughly fond of and charmed by; well-written, engaging, with lovely and charismatic characters at its core. As mentioned above, while there is perhaps a less startling murder mystery at the center of this story than in the series opener, there are deeper elements examined in Amy and Richard’s relationship, as well as with Aunt Lydia and Kurt and their respective love for Amy’s deceased uncle- all of which are terrifically explored. Readers interested in looking into this series, I would recommend starting with book one, A Murder for the Books. I am looking forward to book three in the series, Past Due for Murder, coming out in early 2019!

Extras: Discussion Questions for book clubs via the author’s website!

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Crooked Lane Book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

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Recently Read: A Murder for the Books (A Blue Ridge Library Mystery #1) by Victoria Gilbert

Review: A Murder for the Books (A Blue Ridge Library Mystery #1) by Victoria Gilbert
Source: ARC courtesy of Crooked Lane Books. Thank you!
Publication: December 12, 2017 by Crooked Lane Books
Book Description:

Fleeing a disastrous love affair, university librarian Amy Webber moves in with her aunt in a quiet, historic mountain town in Virginia. She quickly busies herself with managing a charming public library that requires all her attention with its severe lack of funds and overabundance of eccentric patrons. The last thing she needs is a new, available neighbor whose charm lures her into trouble.

Dancer-turned-teacher and choreographer Richard Muir inherited the farmhouse next door from his great-uncle, Paul Dassin. But town folklore claims the house’s original owner was poisoned by his wife, who was an outsider. It quickly became water under the bridge, until she vanished after her sensational 1925 murder trial. Determined to clear the name of the woman his great-uncle loved, Richard implores Amy to help him investigate the case. Amy is skeptical until their research raises questions about the culpability of the town’s leading families… including her own.

When inexplicable murders plunge the quiet town into chaos, Amy and Richard must crack open the books to reveal a cruel conspiracy and lay a turbulent past to rest in A Murder for the Books, the first installment of Victoria Gilbert’s Blue Ridge Library mysteries.

I have to admit: when I saw that the protagonist in A Murder for the Books is a librarian, I was very curious! Representations of librarians in literature (from children’s book to adult fiction, comic strips, etc.) are…varied. Putting it mildly, sometimes librarians are not so accurately (or kindly!) represented. Author Victoria Gilbert, as I learned, is herself a librarian, so I felt like my reading experience would be in better hands…and it was! A Murder for the Books– featuring intelligent, accomplished yet self-effacing librarian Amy Webber- is a well-written, absorbing, intriguingly plotted mystery.

Gilbert has done a terrific job with this debut in laying out a strong foundation of characters (both primary and secondary), and in establishing the town of Blue Ridge. Through the first-person narrative of Amy, readers are taken into the small community of Blue Ridge, Virginia and its inhabitants. Amy, now living with her aunt Lydia in her beautiful stately home, hopes to live a more quiet life (free of relationship messes) as the new manager of the town public library. As we know from the book description, however, Amy’s life does not stay quiet for long. When elderly community member Doris is found dead- from a bullet wound- in the library archives, the supposed tranquility of Blue Ridge upends. Along with their new neighbor Richard- a talented dancer/choreographer who is exploring his own complicated family history in Blue Ridge- Amy takes research into her hands to investigate who could’ve murdered Doris- and why. As Amy unearths one piece of the town’s shadier history after another- some shocking and sad, some that surprisingly involve her own family as well as Richard’s- things slowly fall into place to make for some weighty and fascinating reveals. Gilbert balances the mix of murder mystery, detailed backstory, as well as the fairly crackling spark between Amy and Richard very well, giving attention to each facet as needed to propel the story (which is, at times, quite involved) along at a good pace.

Overall, A Murder for the Books is a very solid series start; a well-done mystery that will likely appeal to readers who are interested in more intricate amateur sleuth mysteries. In the last few months, I have had the opportunity to read some delightful cozy mysteries– if you’ve had a chance to enjoy any of those titles, or enjoy the work of authors such as Margaret Mizushima, Jenn McKinlay, Joanne Fluke, or Janet Evanovich, you might especially like A Murder for the Books. There is a second book in the series, Shelved Under Murder, coming out this summer, so readers can look forward to more of Amy and Richard!

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Crooked Lane Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.