First and foremost, a large thank you to Reedsy Discovery and Charlotte Stuart for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.
When I was recently looking for a lighthearted mystery, I came upon two novels by Charlotte Stuart, this latter one being the ARC I am about to review. Able to spin a unique mystery with a cast of ‘off the wall’ characters, Stuart again successfully delivers a solid story with decent plot twists. Cameron Chandler was an out of work widow, going stir-crazy with two children and an overbearing mother. After answering a Help Wanted sign at Penny-wise Investigations, Cameron found herself embarking on a new career as an investigator. Now, a year in, she and her colleague, Yuri Webster, have been hired by Nathan Knight’s Campaign for a House seat to look into who might be stealing lawn signs. When Cameron and Yuri follow a few teenagers back to the opposition campaign office, they think things are solved. However, wanting to bite off a bit more than they can chew, the investigators enter Bobby Mann’s headquarters and find a dead body. After the police arrive and exclude them from the list of suspects, Cameron and Yuri are told in no uncertain terms not to try solving the crime. Soon thereafter, they are hired by the Mann campaign to keep an eye on things and see what the police and media investigations uncover. While a little unorthodox, Cameron and Yuri are up for a challenge. As they look a little deeper, they learn that the victim was working for the Mann Campaign to bring it down rather than support the East Coaster’s chance at winning in Seattle. The victim had a great deal of research that he’d done into Mann and hoped to release it, but died before it came to light. As Cameron and Yuri seek to follow the trail a little more, they discover additional bodies tied to the research and are left to wonder who is trying to silence people against Bobby Mann. Politics may be a cutthroat game, but that’s suppose to be a metaphor. Are Cameron and Yuri next on the list to be threatened by some mysterious killer? Stuart does it again with a great mystery that keeps the reader turning pages without getting too bogged down. Recommended for those who need some lighter fare during the upcoming election cycle, as well as the reader who enjoys a fast-paced mystery.
While I was not too sure what to expect from Charlotte Stuart, I tossed myself into this piece and hoped for the best. This novel did its job and then some, building nicely on key aspects of the series debut, but could also be read as a standalone. Cameron Chandler is a wonderful character who keeps growing on the curious reader. She’s a single parent who is forced to juggle the moods of her children while also needing to put some bread on the table. Now a full-fledged investigator, Cameron is tossed into an intense case without expecting it. The reader learns less about her backstory in this go round, but is privy to a decent amount of character development. Gritty, but not to the point of being cocky, Cameron steals the show and grows as a person, especially when staring danger in the face. The handful of supporting characters are wonderful and fit in to create a relatable cross-section of personalities. Complementing one another and the protagonist, there is always something going on that will entertain the reader. The story keeps the reader’s attention throughout, and Stuart is able to craft a wonderful tale that is both educational and entertaining, particularly as US elections are just around the corner. Her vast array of characters bring much to the experience while also providing the reader with something light that they can enjoy with ease. A mix of chapter lengths propel the story forward while also getting deep enough into things that no one is left feeling shortchanged. If I had one minor critique, it would be that many of the Penny-wise characters are semi-wallflowers. When I read the debut, I saw this handful of great potential interactions and thought Stuart would highlight different ones to pair with Cameron throughout the series. While I enjoy the Cameron-Yuri banter, with so many quirky people on offer, why not use them and show how investigations can take many turns, depending who is doing the sleuthing? That being said, I am all in and will keep my eyes open for anything else Charlotte Stuart writes, as these are just the kind of mysteries I need.
Kudos, Madam Stuart, for another great mystery that I can devour in short order. Keep the ideas coming and I hope others trip upon these books as well.
A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons