Sunday, March 6, 2016

Review: A Geek Girl’s Guide to Arsenic by Julie Anne Lindsey

A Geek Girl’s Guide to Arsenic by Julie Anne Lindsey
Series: Geek Girl Mysteries, Book 2
Publisher: Carina Press
Genre: Mystery
ISBN: 9781459290396
Release Date: March 7, 2016
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

It’s been three months since Jake Archer rolled into town, accused Mia Connors of murder and stole her heart. She hasn’t heard from him since. So when a man collapses at the fall Renaissance Faire, she’s surprised to see the US marshal arrive on scene. And shocked when he points the finger at her—again. Mia would sooner be able to resurrect the poor fellow than poison him.

Jake Archer’s career has been rising fast, but it’s about to come to a crashing halt. The Ren-Faire victim was in protective custody—Jake’s custody—and they were painfully close to nabbing a major crime boss. If Jake doesn't solve the murder soon, he'll be fetching donuts instead of protecting his nation. A difficult enough task without the alluring Mia Connors in the way.

Working with Jake to catch the killer might push Mia into crazy-cat-lady territory. But with a murderer on the loose—and Mia's reputation on the line—they'll have to work fast to find the killer before the killer finds them.

A Geek Girl’s Guide to Arsenic is a story I wanted to like much more than I did. As a cozy mystery, it hits every single element, down to the (mostly) kooky cast of characters, led by the cosplay-loving, geeky heroine herself. Yet, for me, there was something missing. The characters all felt less developed in this second Geek Girls Mysteries outing, the mystery was not at all mysterious, and the first half of the book moved far too slowly.

IT manager and would-be sleuth Mia Connors is back in action mere months after the events of A Geek Girl’s Guide to Murder, and to author Julie Anne Lindsey’s credit, the traumatic events that occurred in the first story have stayed with Mia. That doesn’t mean our inquisitive heroine will hesitate to jump right back into a murder mystery at the local Faire. Her eagerness to track down a killer overpowers her common sense, and I can’t blame either Jake or his homicide detective brother for being frustrated by Mia’s interfering with a murder investigation. Mia buzzes about like a bee, causing and getting into trouble in ways that are sometimes charming and sometimes strain credulity. Still, Mia’s got an upbeat nature, a strong personality, and realistic vulnerabilities that I found appealing. It’s those things that keep the story moving along when scenes threatened to drag.

Jake is one of the few bastions of calm in A Geek Girl’s Guide to Arsenic, and as intrigued as I was by him in the first book, I was looking forward to diving into his character more. Sadly, we don’t get to learn very much more about Jake and what we do uncover is quickly glossed over. Mia’s family is far more present than Jake, yet for some reason they took a step back in this book, becoming less realized as characters. The Connors clan dropped into single-note caricatures, often for laughs, which was a bit of a disappointment since they were a strong presence in the story.

As for the murder mystery itself, A Geek Girl’s Guide to Arsenic falls victim to the same problem A Geek Girl’s Guide to Murder had: the bad guy is practically wearing flashing lights. I didn’t expect the mystery to be difficult to solve, but a bit of guesswork and more organic motivations for the villain would have been appreciated. As it stands, the mystery felt more like a device to get Mia from one location/quirky character to the next. This was a pity, because the story and the series as a whole truly have potential. All in all, A Geek Girl’s Guide to Arsenic isn’t a bad read. It has funny moments, geeky pop culture references that are charming, and the leading characters are likeable and have the potential to be truly interesting.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.