Survival Can Be Deadly (Discount Detective Mystery #1), by Charlotte Stuart

Eight stars

Looking for a lighthearted mystery, I came upon this novel by Charlotte Stuart and thought that I would give it a try. Spinning a unique mystery with a cast of characters best labelled ‘off the wall’, Stuart is able to deliver a solid mystery without getting too bogged down in complex plot twists. Cameron Chandler is a recent widow who has been out of work. This is enough to make anyone go stir-crazy, but her two children and insistent mom make the need to get out of the house all the more important. When Cameron stumbles upon a Help Wanted sign in the local mall, she is intrigued. This is not some normal shop seeking assistance, but the Penny-Wise Investigation Firm, where sleuthing can be done for a discount and there’s no coupon needed. On a whim, Cameron enters and is pulled in. She’s given the chance to prove herself as an investigator, something her family certainly feels she is not qualified to do. After meeting many of her colleagues and going through some rigorous training, Cameron is licensed and ready to be a full-fledged member of the team. Her first solo case is to locate Melissa Rogers, a teen who’s run away from home. Cameron follows a few leads within Seattle and soon finds herself at what might be a dead end. She enlists the help of her colleague, Yuri Webster, who is as carefree as they come. They work together and surmise that Melissa may have left to attend a survivalists’ camp on the San Juan Islands, just off the coast of Washington State. Posing as tourists, Cameron and Yuri learn a little more about what’s going on without locating Melissa. They will have to take the next step and attend one of the weekend seminars, which will provide Cameron with all that she needs to know about survivalist techniques and perhaps lead her to Melissa. Things do not go as smoothly as Cameron would like and she soon discovers there is more to this group than meets the eye. Melissa is somewhere, but it will surely take more than a tap on the shoulder and a friendly smile to lure her back to Seattle. A great story that kept me turning pages as I made my way through with ease. Recommended to those who need some lighter fare on their reading calendar, as well as the reader who enjoys mysteries told from a unique angle.

When I stumbled upon this piece by Charlotte Stuart, I was not entirely sure what to expect. I had been handed an ARC for Stuart’s latest book, but wanted to start at the beginning. I tossed myself into this piece in hopes of learning a little more about Penny-Wise and the entire backstory of the characters. This novel did its job and then some, opening my mind and eyes to a great deal of interesting interactions. Cameron Chandler is a wonderful character with little to lose. A single parent, something her mother reminds her will not change if she does not find someone, Cameron is forced to juggle the moods of her children while also needing to put some bread on the table. Her gamble with this investigator job seems to be on a whim, but she fits in perfectly and is soon excelling like no other. The reader learns a little about her backstory, but also a great deal of development. Gritty, but not to the point of being cocky, Cameron steals the show in this piece. The handful of supporting characters are wonderful and fit in wonderfully. Complementing one another and the protagonist in particular, there is always something going on that will entertain the reader. In a story that keeps the reader’s attention throughout, Stuart is able to craft a wonderful tale that is both educational and entertaining. 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. I feel that I have a great handle on things and am ready to tackle the follow-up book (that aforementioned ARC) to see what other trouble Cameron Chandler can find.

Kudos, Madam Stuart, for a great introduction to your work. I hope others stumble upon it and find some of the same conclusions that I did with this piece.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: