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Engaged to Die: A Death on Demand Mystery [Hardcover]

Carolyn G. Hart
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Feb. 20 2003 Death on Demand Mysteries

Love is in the air -- but alas, so is murder -- as award-winning author Carolyn Hart returns once again to the South Carolina Low Country island of Broward's Rock and sets her delightful married sleuths, the Darlings, on separate trails to a killer.

Nothing warms the heart like romance -- even as the raw, cold winds of January chill the residents of Broward's Rock to the bone. But it's more than amore that intrigues mystery bookstore owner Annie Darling and her husband, Max, when wealthy, widowed art patron Virginia Neville announces her engagement to Jake O'Neill, her handsome, charming, and much younger fiancé, at a gala opening at the Neville gallery. Virginia's joyful announcement leaves many of the gathered -- especially certain members of her resentful extended stepfamily -- quite peeved. And one of the guests takes the news harder than the rest: before the last champagne bubble pops, murder disrupts the grand celebration.

Quickly deputized by Acting Police Chief Billy Cameron, troubleshooter Max Darling dives headfirst into the icy investigative waters, leaving wife Annie somewhat out in the cold. But since her young assistant, Chloe, is a prime suspect -- and one of Jake O'Neill's most recent broken hearts -- Annie is determined to untangle the unholy marriage of jealousy, blackmail, gunplay, and malicious mischief ... even if it means crossing swords with hubby Max and placing herself in the perilous path of a cleverly sadistic stalker.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Hart supplies superior cozy fare in her 14th mystery (after 2002's April Fool Dead) to feature amateur sleuth Annie Darling and her husband, Max. Everyone in the Low Country island of Broward's Rock, S.C., has been looking forward to the gala opening of a new art collection at the Neville Gallery, owned by heiress Virginia Neville, who intends to use the evening not only to dispel the foggy gloom of January on the island but also to announce her engagement to much younger artist Jake O'Neill. However, the party quickly ends when Jake turns up murdered. Max, deputized immediately to help, finds himself at cross-purposes with Annie, owner of the Death on Demand bookstore, who seeks to vindicate her friend who's the prime suspect. A fast-paced plot and a skillfully integrated sub-plot will keep the reader involved and guessing until the very end. Hart expertly handles numerous characters, notably Max's quirky, but lovable mother and Henny, Death on Demand's best customer and mystery expert, who plays a clever mind game with Annie. The interplay between Annie and Max enhances the plot, where in lesser hands it would become the focus. Those who appreciate crime fiction in the Agatha Christie Mousetrap mold will also go for this superb whodunit.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Hart's fourteenth Death on Demand mystery is richly evocative of January on the foggy, chilly, damp island of Broward's Rock, South Carolina. Invited to a combined art opening and engagement party, mystery bookstore owner Annie Darling and her husband, Max, are present when the groom-to-be is found with his head bashed in. Circumstantial evidence points to one of Annie's young friends as the most promising suspect. After Max is deputized to help solve the case but Annie is not, Annie works on her own to exonerate her friend, on whom the police and Max concentrate to the exclusion of several other possible suspects. All the while, Annie and Max's easy, loving relationship continues, and Annie's somewhat spacey mother-in-law offers her encouragement through quotations on friendship. Mystery buffs will enjoy identifying the paintings of mystery scenes Hart describes at the beginning of the book and answering the trivia questions that Annie's longtime nemesis, Henny, uses to try to stump her. An enjoyable addition to a long-running series. Sue O'Brien
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Another Great Entry July 11 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I really enjoy the Death on Demand series. Some people find the references to other mysteries and mystery writers annoying but I find it fun as I can many times relate to the reference, adding an extra little bit of pleasure to the mystery.
I particularly enjoyed this book because it features a lot of interplay between husband and wife Max & Annie Darling without focusing solely on their relationship. A wealthy "older" woman is about to announce her engagement to a much younger man when a murder occurs preventing that event from happening. A good friend of Annie's is the prime suspect for the murder and Annie & Max must, of course, step in to find the real killer. Max, in fact, is deputized to help the sheriff, a fact that irritates Annie to no end.
There are a few side issues thrown in for fun and they make for some nice diversions from the main mystery. I must say that one reason I especially enjoyed this book is that Max's mother does not play a big role - I do find her a little irritating as I find her somewhat of a stereotype airhead.
Really looking forward to the next entry in the series: "Murder Walks the Plank" and hope to see a new Henri O. mystery soon!
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2.0 out of 5 stars Where's the plot? Feb. 18 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I've given Carolyn Hart several chances, but this book was the last one.
The setup is fine. We get the well-hated rich heiress, the Big House o' Suspects, the timetable, and so on. We get an allegedly sympathetic character (whom I didn't like) accused, presumably falsely, of the crime. We get a possible witness who knows more than she's telling.
All these are well-established mystery elements. In the hands of a good writer, they're a recipe for pure pleasure.
In the hands of Ms. Hart, they go nowhere. The suspect disappears, and the rest of the book consists of people bumbling around, wondering where she is, and arguing about whether she really done it. There are no clues. There is no detection. There is no puzzle. There is no plot development, other than the inevitable second murder. The solution, when it finally arrives, arrives with a resounding POOF! out of thin air: there's no logic to back it up, no explanation of how we got to that point, no reason why a different solution wouldn't do just as well. None of the alternative suspects is given any face time. The moderately-elaborate timetable is entirely irrelevant, a waste of space.
The virtue of the classical mystery is in its ability to take time-honored elements and weave a new puzzle around them. Absent the puzzle, the whole thing becomes an assemblage of cliches.
Ms. Hart should, perhaps, try writing romances.
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5.0 out of 5 stars What a Great Time to Discover Carolyn Hart! June 21 2003
Carolyn Hart, where have you been all my life?
Seriously, how is it that I never spotted you on the bookshelves amongst the Sue Graftons and Patricia Cornwells and Sarah Paretskys? Well, I have now rectified that, thank goodness.
Carolyn Hart is a mystery lover's dream come true. Her stories are for anyone who will confess to the guilty pleasure of reading serial mysteries (okay, and even for those of you who won't admit it, but secretly indulge nonetheless). ENGAGED TO DIE is Hart's latest installment --- the fourteenth installment, to be exact --- in the Death on Demand whodunit series featuring Annie and Max Darling, amateur detectives reminiscent of Nick and Nora Charles.
Annie Darling owns a bookstore, but not just any bookstore. She is the proprietor of Death on Demand, a popular venue on the island of Broward's Rock in South Carolina that specializes in selling leather-bound enigmas and paperback puzzlers. If you have ever walked into a real-life mystery bookstore like The Cloak and Dagger in Princeton, NJ, you know the sheer joy of losing yourself in the thievery, murder and mayhem oozing from the pages authored by Dashiell Hammett, Carolyn Keene or Arthur Conan Doyle.
The bookstore setting is ingenious; it affords Hart the opportunity to show off her knowledge of mystery writers, new and old, great and virtually unknown. Conversations in the store between Annie and her customers are peppered with titles and authors, and the reader, if a lover of mysteries, can't help but feel that he or she is part of a special club. Henny Brawley is described as the store's best customer; each of her visits results in the purchase of several books and the exchange of mystery trivia. (Brownie points for anyone who knows the significance of the name "Hepzibah" in the mystery genre.
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4.0 out of 5 stars MYSTERY AND MIRTH ABOUND March 14 2003
By Gail Cooke TOP 50 REVIEWER
Oklahoma native Carolyn Hart was the first triple crown winner in the mystery genre - she garnered The Agatha, Anthony and Macavity Awards. "Engaged To Die" is her 34th book; the 14th in the Death on Demand Series. Quite obviously, she's not one to rest on her laurels or considering her output even to rest.
Annie and Max Darling have become reader favorites with their escapades and always entertaining adventures. In their latest engaging mystery we find excitement afoot on the Low Country island of Broward's Rock, South Carolina. (Faithful readers know this site is based on Hilton Head Island).
Wealthy art gallery owner Virginia Neville is about to host a soiree introducing a major new collection. Her party is about all islanders can talk about, and everyone has received an invitation.
But no one is in on what Virginia considers the biggest surprise of all - she's announcing her engagement to a much younger man. As they say, the path of true love seldom runs smooth - especially when murder comes on the scene.
Max Darling is quickly called upon to assist in the investigation, which proves to be an even greater challenge when one of the prime suspects turns out to be Chloe Martin, a college girl who worked at Annie's bookstore over the Christmas holidays.
Chloe has an additional agenda of her own - she has fallen in love with a mysterious stranger, and she doesn't even know his name.
Leave it to Max and Annie to solve the crime and put their world to rights while providing readers with lots of fun and surprises along the way.
- Gail Cooke
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