A new mystery series by Ali Brandon (the nom de plume of mystery writer Diane A.S. Stuckart) starts with this book, Double Booked for Death. A good read, it has a familiar and comfortable feel to it. The protagonist is from Texas and has moved to New York after inheriting a bookstore and apartment from her irascible Great-Aunt Dee. We are swept into the life of the store almost immediately, meeting the lord of the castle—the black cat Hamlet—as he attacks an old man’s poking cane.
Hamlet, along with the tenant in the garden apartment, Jake, are also part of Darla Pettistone’s legacy from her great-aunt. The brownstone in Brooklyn that becomes both home and business to Darla provides most of the story’s backdrop. Darla’s two employees aren’t really fleshed out in this first book, although I hope as the series progresses we will get more background on all the characters.
The main plot in this book involves an author signing. The book title is Haunted High (a tongue-in-cheek nod, I think, to the current popularity of supernatural by author Brandon) and its author, Valerie Baylor, is a stereotypical prideful writer who wants things “just so” for her book-signing gig. Darla does, too, for she knows that independent bookstores are hardly successful in today’s economic climate, and she needs the sales the book-signing will bring. The line of teenaged girls (dressed in outfits that match each other, the characters in Haunted High, and the author’s photograph) goes around the block, and Jake and her off-duty cop friends have their hands full keeping them controlled.
There is, of course, a murder, and all its concurrent problems that descend upon the hapless Darla. Some of the cat behaviors seem derivative from other cat mysteries, with the cat knocking books off the shelves and behaving oddly in an apparent attempt to guide Darla to discovering the murderer. And the book seems somewhat formulaic in nature; 30ish woman inherits a business from a distant relative, struggles to make a go of it and is stopped in her tracks by an untimely death and strange goings-on. The writing is good, though, and Darla seems to be evolving into an interesting person with a good head on her shoulders. I look forward to further books in this series, to see if Brandon continues to fill-out and strengthen the characters and plotlines. A good winter night’s read.