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The Antique House Murders: The Oakwood…

The Antique House Murders: The Oakwood Mystery Series (edition 2017)

by Leslie Nagel (Author)

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157903,070 (3.28)4
Title:The Antique House Murders: The Oakwood Mystery Series
Authors:Leslie Nagel (Author)
Info:Alibi (2017), 232 pages

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The Antique House Murders by Leslie Nagel



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Charley Carpenter owns a vintage clothing store, and is making a deal with Calvin Prescott to buy clothing from the estate of Augusta Mulbridge. But while there, she hears and sees an argument between Millie Peache and Calvin - it seems Millie thinks Augusta made a will leaving the home to the preservation society, not to her children. The unfortunate thing is that Millie is insistent it's inside a book that is to be sold at the sale, but which one? Before she's evicted, Charley also hears the sniping remarks by Augusta's daughter Holland.

When Charley is able to pick up the clothing from Calvin's she finds him dead, and immediately calls the police - her boyfriend, Marcus Trenault. Since Calvin was also a family friend, she has a personal interest in finding his killer. But Marcus warns her to stay out of the investigation and let him do his job.

Charley, however, isn't about to let it go. She decides that while she conducts her own investigation, if she finds anything of interest she'll tell Marcus, and he'll be grateful that she's helped solve the murder, right? But what Charley doesn't figure on is that the killer - or killers - have a vested interest in finding the supposed will and aren't about to let a little problem like Charley get in the way, even if they have to kill her to keep her quiet...

First off, let me say that this is not a cozy mystery. There are (although not graphic) sex scenes and quite a bit of swearing. Those things alone exclude it from the genre; but it wouldn't make a difference if I enjoyed the book otherwise. While this book was written well, it could have been so much better. There was something niggling at me throughout the book about Charley, and I was trying to figure it out while reading.

Finally it was Charley herself who figured it out for me: she states at one point that she was determined to investigate on her own, but reinforced Marc's opinion that she was unfit to take part in police business and he would discuss his cases with her anymore. Say what??? She's not a police officer and isn't fit to take part in police business! She's the owner of a vintage clothing shop. He shouldn't be discussing cases with her. She acted like it was a contest, and she was determined to solve the murder before he did - just so she could get him to admit she was better at it than him. (Talk about self-esteem issues).

In fact, the police rather come off as buffoons with Charley feeding them clues because they're too dumb to figure it out. Not once did Marc say something like, "We already know that, Charley," but he always seemed dumbfounded when she put things together. Perhaps she should be the officer and he should run the store (because it's certain she's not doing it anyway). It appeared as if the only reason they're together is so that Charley can solve his cases.

While I like strong women in books (who doesn't?), I don't like women who think they have to one-up their police officer boyfriends. After all, in real life do you think that police officers allow their wives and girlfriends to 'take part' in police business? Not gonna happen unless they're officers themselves. Yes, this bothered me. Not once did it seem that she was trying to solve Calvin's murder because of Calvin; it honestly seemed like she was doing it for the reasons mentioned above. And that is why I found her rather unlikable.

What you have with Marc and Charley is immovable object meets irresistible force - but in this case, 'nothing's gotta give'. They're like tigers circling each other to see who's got domination, and that's not a good thing. He's controlling and jealous, she's manipulative and narcissistic. A toxic relationship. They fight and yell at each other. Yeah, that's a good relationship all around. I can't see it lasting a year unless they get help. It's called emotional and mental abuse, people. It's not a good thing. Neither is making a joke of rape.

Unfortunately, there were also too many characters, and I found myself asking 'Who?' several times throughout the book. Also, while she's a business owner, she's out solving crimes. I think she really does believe herself to be Daphne from Scooby Doo. Supposedly she can pay an employee a decent starting wage, but where is her money coming from? There wasn't a single customer, she never spent time in her store, which was odd; and she had no problem committing crimes (we're talking felonies, folks) in the course of her 'investigation', and dragging her friends in on the mix at times (who were, for the most part, stereotypical). Not to mention the eighteen-year-old who thinks the bad guy with a gun shooting at her is fun and exciting and wants to chase him down and a 'sharpshooter cop' who can't hit the guy shooting at him (huh?) among others.

But what saved the book and gave it two stars was the ending - which was quite a rush and put together well. It was riveting, believable and satisfying; unfortunately it wasn't enough to save the rest of the book. ( )
  joannefm2 | Jan 17, 2018 |
I'm often hard on cozy mysteries. They're so much of fun when they're done well – which is why, despite all obstacles, I keep reading them – but when one doesn't live up to expectations, I can't help but point out why.

Like here.

The good news first: Leslie Nagel writes well, in terms of formation of sentences and structure of story. This was a quick read, and not awful by any means; the setting was good and the two main characters had some life to them. The climax was climactic. It was mildly funny in places. Hence two stars instead of the one I'm tempted to drop.

The bad news … Some of the characters were little more than a collection of characteristics representing a person. I was a bit disappointed in the stereotyping of the main character's good friend who happens to be gay (also called, by one person, "you know".)

One of my biggest complaints is that there are just too many characters. If I had lots and lots of leisure time I'd make a chart to see whether there really were more people inhabiting this plot than others I've read recently, but I don't – my point, though, is that at least two or three times in the course of 232 pages people came on the scene who were clearly not being introduced for the first time, and I said "Who?" My memory's not the best, but I have never had a problem keeping track of what I'm reading. I am generally reading at least a couple of books at the same time, and always have done; right now I've got three going on the Kindle, one audiobook at work and one at home. I've never had trouble getting back up to speed when returning to a book before – but for whatever reason when this author expected me to recognize characters' names, I failed. Whether there were indeed too many people in the cast, or whether I just wasn't paying enough attention, I don't know; if the latter, though, it was because my attention wasn't held.

One other reason for my low rating of this book is that it commits several cozy mystery crimes, and in the first degree instead of any lesser felonies. The main character owns her own business, of course – I guess no one wants to read about an office worker or librarian or something who solves crimes? Or is it that no one wants to write about them? Perhaps because an employee of anyone sensible would be fired if they took as much time off to solve those crimes as most cozy heroines do? One of my pet peeves about cozies is their utter divorcement from reality in showing small business owners – usually tiny retail business owners – who somehow manage to have at least one full-time employee. Charley Carpenter somehow has two, though there's no mention of a customer ever entering her shop in the whole course of the book (unless I wasn't paying attention). Of course, there's little chance for such a mention, since in the whole course of the book I think she's actually in her store for … what, maybe ten pages out of the 232? She is so intent on snooping, on doing all the things she has been specifically told by her cop boyfriend that she should not, cannot do, on breaking and entering (what – it's not wrong, is it?), that she seems to hardly give her not-exactly-thriving business a thought. (Of course, if she greets every one of her few customers with “What special treasure may I help you find today?" it's kind of understandable if she has few return visitors. I wouldn't go back.) Charley's motivation for pretty much everything she does is weak and silly, and her insistence on proceeding with the stupid things she absolutely should not do is idiotic. And at times it endangers not only her own life, but others'. None of this makes me ever want to spend another minute with her, ever again.

I'll say again what I usually say: I'm really good at suspending disbelief, if the author provides a strong enough antigravity device. You give me enough grounding in reality, or a complete enough divorce from reality, and – what's the saying about having a lever and a place to stand? Give me a place to stand, and I've got plenty of lever to believe in dragons, or starships, or boy wizards, or caterers who solve mysteries. If the place you give me to stand in is too small or too unstable, my lever doesn't work, and I will begin to list problems.

And for me Charley's "business" is a problem. Her friends are a problem – of course she has a cop boyfriend. Of course the gay friend and the black careworker and the Middle-Eastern friend are (at least here in this installment) each a collection of stereotyping descriptors – swish, and huge-but-gentle, and dashiki, respectively – and not a whole lot more. There's a stereotypical crazy old lady – but despite obvious red flags does anyone think to try to get her some help? Nope. She might be mentally unsound, and scared, and under the thumb of someone who at least mentally abuses her – but she's got dirty orange hair, and she was kind of nasty, and her house is smelly, and there's a murder that isn't any of Charley's business to solve! She's forgotten in minutes.

There's also a demi-villain in the mix who switches personalities so often someone ought to have called an exorcist. A podcast I listen to talks about the "Gumby-fication" of certain television characters, whose personalities depend on what might be needed by a given week's script: one week misogynistic, one week brilliant, one week kind of dumb or ignorant, etc. This character does that, in one scene grief-stricken and in the next vicious, with no reason at all for the abrupt change. The sequence of emotions makes no sense.

And of course when someone in the cast starts throwing up suddenly and randomly I know exactly what's going on. It's the exact same thing as is going on in every other book ever written where someone who is not being poisoned is suddenly and randomly sick. There's got to be a better way of telegraphing it.

But then, reputation for Nancy-Drew-ing aside, this Charley person and those around her aren't exactly brilliant detectives.

Something I did not expect was the occasional departure from the cozy format that crops up throughout the book. I didn't expect (or want) the PG-13-level sexy scenes. They're far from explicit, but they're still more than you see in most of this genre. And … did you know that the "f-word" can only be used once in a movie if it wants to avoid an R rating? By that rulebook, this book didn't stay PG-13 for long.

The f-bombs, if I recall correctly, all come from Mitch, Charley's cop boyfriend – who, I admit, has reason enough to swear, given his girlfriend. Their relationship is … nauseating. No, I don't mean the sexytimes – though as mentioned they did feel out of place in this book; I mean the fact that Charley is such an idiot. She lies to Marc – isn't happy about it, but decides she's in the right and therefore does it. Twice. And then once the dust is beginning to settle from that, she blithely commits a first-degree felony. And almost gets herself killed. (Almost gets herself killed again, apparently, based on the references to past books.) Ya know, if you're not a law enforcement official and you keep finding yourself in positions where your life is hanging by a thread, maybe you should a) make an effort to mind your damn business (literally – don't let those employees I can't believe you can afford twist in the wind) and avoid such situations, or b) give up your shop and go sign up for the police academy. I wanted to start a "Save Mitch" campaign, except that he's kind of a jerk himself; at one point he thinks a woman is "pretty enough, but a bit too old and definitely too bossy for Mitch’s taste" – and that is not conducive to making me tolerate him. All is forgiven in the end – that's hardly a spoiler, since it's a cozy – but it shouldn't be. There are some serious problems with this relationship. Again, the disbelief is too big to be suspended.

The usual disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley for review. ( )
  Stewartry | Oct 9, 2017 |
The Antique House Murders by Leslie Nagel
Book #2: The Oakwood Mystery Series
Source: Netgalley
My Rating: 4/5 stars
My Review:

One would think suburban Ohio would be a safe place to live, laugh, and love. As it turns out, no and Charley Carpenter is once again caught up in the middle of the mess and her boyfriend, Detective Marcus Trenault is once again furious.

To be completely fair to Charley, getting caught up in yet another murder mystery wasn’t he intention at all. In fact, the only two things tying Charley to Mulbridge House and all the drama is a truckload (literally!) of vintage clothes for her shop and the auction house owner, Calvin Prescott. Calvin has been a family friend and mentor for many, many years and to find him dead in his shop is a blow to both Charley and her family. Outside of Charley’s family, Calvin was a well-liked and respected member of the community, a man no one could have possibly wanted dead. Of course, such a heinous act only leaves with Charley with more questions than answers and those questions lead her to Mulbridge House, Calvin’s last project.

It only takes Charley about two questions to figure out Mulbridge House isn’t just a dilapidated old home, but a home at the center of a huge community fight. The heirs can’t wait to tear the old home down and start selling off the land for a ginormous profit, the local preservation group wants it for a museum, and the neighbors and community at large are split down the middle. At stake is quite literally millions of dollars with the players ranging from sketchy heirs, to town planning committee members, to drug dealers, to the actual police, to one vintage clothing store owner with no sense for her own safety or self-preservation.

From the very beginning, Charley is warned by her boyfriend, the DETECTIVE to keep her nose out of the investigation and let the police do their jobs. From the beginning, Charley lies to Marcus and continues to poke around until she’s blown everything wide open, gotten one officer suspended, her boyfriend not talking to her, some bodily damage, and one desperately crazy killer identified. In all, a typical week for Charley 😊

The Bottom Line: I’m beginning to really like suburban Ohio and all the trouble it seems to crank out. Charley Carpenter isn’t always the smartest kitten in the litter, but she has a ton of good intentions and a can-do attitude! Much to her long-suffering boyfriends great displeasure. With the core characters established in the first book and the general scene set, there were fewer slow spots in this read which kept everything moving steadily from start to finish and made me a far happier reader. Of the core characters, there is some evolution and growth; of the secondary (and new) characters there are some expanding story lines that will certainly play out further in future reads. The plot is twisty and turny with just the right amount of action and violence for the cozy mystery genre. There’s no sophomore slump here and I’m ready for book three and Charley’s next adventure. ( )
  arthistorychick | Aug 5, 2017 |
3.5 stars

Leslie Nagel has created an interesting set of characters in her cozy, The Antique House Murders. The complexity of the players in her novel is to be commended. Some of the people will stick in my memory for a long time to come, which is a great compliment, as I am an avid reader.

The action was well-paced and I found myself flipping pages as rapidly as possible to discover who was truly responsible for the terror in the town.

Yet, this is not a book I would whole-heartedly recommend. Language and situations made me uncomfortable. The book would have been just as good without them. ( )
  Becky_L | Jun 25, 2017 |
Charley Carpenter, owner of a vintage clothing store, is given a sneak peak at an estate sale where she buys vintage clothing before the final auction. When she goes to the auction house to pick up her purchases, she finds her friend, the auctioneer,dead. Convinced that the murder was related to the upcoming demolition of the estate building, Charley gets involved in the investigation and nearly ends up like her friend.

Several twists and turns kept the mystery hopping so that it was fun to figure out the culprit along with Charley. ( )
  cyderry | Jun 13, 2017 |
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