artful dodger
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While other readers apparently really loved this book, I must confess to a somewhat less ebullient attitude toward the book. As with many other reviewers, I would greatly wish for a half-star in order to give the book 3 ½ stars, but as that is not the case, I must sadly drop a full star. Once I state my case, you will either agree or disagree. As always, everyone’s tastes are different.

What I liked about the book is the mystery itself. Well written and smart, the mystery itself, involving the murder of the main character’s neighbor and close friend, was plotted meticulously and was highly believable.  The denouement itself was heart-rending, and, had the book been based solely upon the mystery itself, would have been a five-star read.

The crippling aspect of the book, to me, was the character development. For all that I desperately wanted to like the main character and the relationships in the book, I simply couldn’t. Don’t get me wrong – many aspects of Maggie were admirable. She is strong and funny in many ways. However, her anger and attitude were over-the-top for a woman with her background. OK, maybe women all have ‘daddy issues’. However, Maggie’s issues wind up forcing me to see her as a spoiled, self-centered mess with very few truly good characteristics other than an admittedly hard-fought love for her neighbor. Honestly, I would have loved for her neighbor to have hung around and someone else to have been killed – Elizabeth is one feisty, fascinating character I would have loved to have followed.

As for the love interest, Villari, he is well written to a point, but his immediate attraction to this character is somewhat unbelievable given the way the heroine is written. Maggie is angry and aggressive, and seems to glory in the fact that she is a total psychological mess who, while dreaming of being an accomplished artist, can’t be bothered to finish anything she starts. Add in her inability to show even a modicum of care for her own well being (the whole eating the green lunchmeat thing because you can’t be bothered to occasionally drop by the market just turned my stomach) and the idea of a well-pulled-together male lead falling for her is beyond believable. As much as we all might long for the hunky hero to fall for the plain-Jane, this one was just a little too over-the-top unbelievable to me.

Overall, I wanted to love the book a lot more than I did. I originally started the book as a light read between much deeper, more powerful books that I am doing for the authors as R4R. It had great potential, but in the end Maggie herself drug the whole book down until I simply finished it to find out ‘who-dun’-it’. At least I wasn’t disappointed by that particular outcome.