Book Review: A Field Guide to Homicide by Lynn Cahoon
When Cat Latimer takes her writing retreat group on a hike, the last thing she expects to find is a dead body. When the murdered man turns out to be an old army colleague of her romantic partner Seth - and even more strangely, one who was declared KIA a decade ago - things take a definite turn for the weird side. With her uncle investigating the case and Seth unable to keep out of it, Cat can’t resist asking a few questions of her own.
As a cozy mystery, this is, honestly, a dismal failure. The writers’ retreat part of the book reads legitimate, though I do question an author who doesn’t use contractions when writing the dialogue of modern-day Americans speaking knowledgably about the publishing business. The problem I had was that the story had no ‘a-ha’ moment, something essential in any kind of mystery; that moment when the Big Reveal comes and the reader either says ‘I saw that coming’ or ‘I didn’t see that coming, but it makes complete sense given these clues the author gave me earlier’. The information was all just dropped on us at the end of the case.
Cat, through whose PoV the story is told, is never in any danger. There are no real stakes, as far as she’s concerned, and she doesn’t meet the murderer until late on in the story. I actually assumed it had to be one of the people on the writers’ retreat, in a classic ‘locked room’ type of story - ‘we’re locked in this room and one of us is the killer!’ - which made it really super weird when I realised I’d spent the whole book minutely examining the actions and motives of all these people who really were frankly irrelevant side characters. Five people who were literally there to pad the word count. You could have taken every scene with any of those five out of the book entirely and made absolutely no difference to the plot; a fundamental problem with the story. Any writer worth their salt knows that if a scene doesn’t actually advance the plot, you SHOULD cut that scene, because it’s just filler. Problem here is that if the author had cut all those scenes, there’d hardly be any book left. The plot was thin in the extreme. I reserve one star reviews for ones with serious ethical flaws (racism etc) or a massive lack of editing, but honestly, giving this two stars actually feels quite generous, because I thoroughly disliked it.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.