There are happy endings, and then there are over the top, unrealistic, "murderer confesses double homicide to arresting officer" while "arch-rival buys several hundred dollars' worth of china from Heroine in a gesture of appreciation" and "Ecstatic Boyfriend buys lot next door and promises to propose on her next birthday" endings. Taken individually, any one of these unbelievable outcomes would spoil a good mystery, but when all occur in the same novel within the final two chapters, the result is a Regrettable Read.
Murder Under A Mystic Moon was my first read by Yalenorn, (a quick read) and I was so disappointed by the sugary ending that it spoiled the mild enjoyment I felt for this cozy story and put me off future novels in the Chintz N' China mystery series. I was initially attracted to the novel because of the plot outline: Emerald, an amateur psychic with two kids, helps a friend locate a missing biker buddy that police believe is a victim of cougar attack, but Emerald "knows there's something else wandering the forest--something that resembles the Klakatat monster of legend...." A mystery novel with a Psychic, a Mysterious Forest, a Monster, and Bikers--how could this story go wrong?
Well, I'll tell you how. Pack in a whole lot of Emerald eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner (plus extended descriptions of her caffeine addiction and various espresso drinks), following Emerald about her daily life on tangents to Yoga class, and polish off the story with the aforementioned ending, and you end up with a mildly enjoyable "mindless" mystery that offers no challenge to readers whatsoever with its wildly unfocused plot.
The basic plot is straightforward enough: Emerald's psychic talents are requested by her biker friend Jimbo to locate his missing friend. However, too many tangent side-plots interrupt the main thread of the story: Emerald's longtime feud with her nemesis--who happens to be a local TV reporter, her mothering of her children, and her blossoming relationship with her boyfriend Joe. These sub-plots, which could have enhanced the story, instead slog the pacing due to unfailingly ideal outcomes. There is no hint of true suspense that Emerald's relationship may suffer a few snags, her children might get in real trouble or fail to understand life lessons she is trying to teach them, or that her rivals will succeed in smearing her good name or causing true harm to her life. Conflicts are created and resolved in predictable sequence, and this lack of tension makes for a lackluster mystery. I found myself skating over excessive lines of description detailing Emerald's happy reaction to unsurprising conflict resolutions in order to get back to main story.
The mystical descriptions of the novel with enjoyable and interesting, but its protagonist Emerald, while likeable, is somewhat of a goody-two-shoes. The story is peppered with annoying antagonists: Cathy Sutton--bleached-blonde local TV reporter with an attitude whose petty spite targets Emerald multiple occasions, George Pleasant (who is anything but) Cathy's intern cousin and amateur psychic with a gargantuan ego who slanders Emerald on TV and verbally maligns her in almost every scene, Roy--her cheating, slime-ball ex-husband that ignores his two kids and is verbally abusive to Emerald via telephone calls, and Anthony--her cheating ex-boyfriend who dumped Emerald for a starlet and makes a reappearance to get her back. Contrast these repulsive characters with an unrealistically perfect, faultlessly devoted Fireman boyfriend who worships Emerald and her kids, and Emerald's apparent refusal to stand up to any of these irritating personalities except in her mind, and you end up with Mary Jane Mom--the girl next door who can do no wrong.
If you enjoy mindless, predictable mysterious with Scooby-Doo endings and kitschy atmosphere, give this novel a try. If, like me, you prefer SOME element of realism to your tale, skip this series like a bad cold.