Engaged to Die: A Death on Demand Mystery Hardcover – Mar 2003
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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.
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
Top Customer Reviews
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
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.
Already disturbed by their father's will, her stepfamily goes berserk thinking the handsome artist will waste what they believe is rightfully theirs. Chloe Martin is also stunned by the announcement because she thought she was exclusively seeing Jake. However, someone decides to take action, killing the charming artist. All evidence indicates that Chloe committed the crime as she flees the scene and her shawl is found near the victim. Chloe's boss mystery bookstore Annie Darling tries to prove her assistant is innocent while her spouse Max helps the police with the official investigation.
Though the who-done-it is relatively easy to figure out by real amateurs like this reviewer, readers will enjoy the latest Death on Demand mystery. Although obvious, the story line is fun to follow, as the darling lead couple wants the same thing even while working on opposite sides of the inquiry.
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.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
This book is a collection of essays for and against the Death Penalty. It is written by people from a variety of backgrounds, including philosophers, lawyers and judges. Read morePublished on July 18 2006 by A. Harris
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... Read morePublished on July 11 2004 by Louis M. Perdue
"Engaged to Die," by Carolyn Hart, is a nicely told murder mystery. I found the characters interesting, the dialogue fast-paced, and the plot read true to life. Read morePublished on May 4 2004 by John Savoy
A lightly written mystery in Carolyn Hart's continuing Darlings series. This book is a lovely bonbon of a diversion. Read morePublished on April 10 2003 by Maye Vanarsdel
Carolyn Hart has been my favorite American mystery writer for years and Engaged to Die is another example why. Read morePublished on April 10 2003 by Lisa Bahrami