Sunday, July 24, 2016

Book Review: A Dark and Stormy Murder by Julia Buckley

Title: A Dark and Stormy Murder (A Writer's Apprentice Mystery #1)
Author: Julia Buckley
Genres: Mystery| Cozy| Female sleuth
Print length: 304 pages
Publisher: Berkeley
Publication date: July 5th, 2016
Source: Purchased
Format: Paperback
Author's website:

An aspiring suspense novelist lands in the middle of a real crime, in the first in a captivating new series by the author of the Undercover Dish Mysteries. Lena London's literary dreams are coming true—as long as she can avoid any real-life villains... Camilla Graham’s bestselling suspense novels inspired Lena London to become a writer, so when she lands a job as Camilla’s new assistant, she can’t believe her luck. Not only will she help her idol craft an enchanting new mystery, she’ll get to live rent-free in Camilla’s gorgeous Victorian home in the quaint town of Blue Lake, Indiana. But Lena’s fortune soon changes for the worse. First, she lands in the center of small town gossip for befriending the local recluse. Then, she stumbles across one thing that a Camilla Graham novel is never without—a dead body, found on her new boss’s lakefront property. Now Lena must take a page out of one of Camilla’s books to hunt down clues in a real crime that seems to be connected to the novelist’s mysterious estate—before the killer writes them both out of the story for good... Goodreads
The plot: Lena London lands the job of a lifetime when her literary idol, Camilla Graham (a fictional romantic suspense writer styled after Mary Stewart), agrees to take her on as an assistant and invites her to live in her "Gothic monstrosity" of a home in the quaint, little town of Blue Lake, Indiana.

As Lena adjusts to small town life and the characters that reside there, Camilla and Lena quickly slip into their roles of mentor and apprentice as they collaborate on Camilla's latest mystery novel. They soon become embroiled in a real-life murder mystery, when Lena finds the body of Martin Jonas on Camilla's beachfront property.

With zero suspects in custody, and the knowledge that this quiet little town isn't all that it seems, Lena sets out to find out who murdered Martin. She has a sneaking suspicion that the crime is tied to Camilla Graham's house and the secrets hidden within...

The character(s): Lena London is a bookish beauty who absolutely idolizes Camilla Graham. The bits where she fangirls over Camilla feel so real and familiar to anyone who truly loves book. Pretty sure if Neil Gaiman took me on as his apprentice, I'd have to lock myself in a closet and scream uncontrollably for an hour before I calmed down enough to take him up on his offer.

Overall, I really enjoyed her character, though there is one part in the book where I felt she overreacted in a way that was extremely out of character and completely took me out of the book for that moment. Other than that, I greatly enjoyed the characters.

Lena's growing relationship with Camilla is pretty heartwarming, and I envy Lena that chance. I'd love to have a successful author take me under their wing and declare themselves my mentor. Camilla herself is great, and you get the sense of real depth within her character.

There's a minor love triangle (of course) between the handsome and helpful Detective Doug Heller and the brooding, mysterious Sam West, who Lena is fast becoming attached to, despite everyone's insistence that he's trouble.

The mystery: For me, the mystery about Martin Jonas's death was very well done. There were the appropriate amount of twists and turns, suspects, and red herrings. The reveal was fantastic and I can honestly say that I figured out the case at the exact moment that Lena did.

The mystery of Sam West, however...

When they mention his troubles in the beginning, I found it interesting and hoped to find out more about his wife's disappearance and what his role in it was. However, the rate that it accelerated near the end, and the giant leap in logic that Camilla takes, along with the fact that this mystery is clearly going to continue into the next book, makes me less enthusiastic about this aspect of the book. 

Final bite: I loved it! While it's no means perfect, the premise is wonderfully original, it has a great cast of characters, a likeable heroine, and an interesting locale. This is a great start to (what I hope will be) an excellent new series for me to follow. Along with her Undercover Dish series (the first book reviewed here), Julia Buckley is fast becoming the cozy author to watch. Highly recommended.

Rating: 4.25/5 


  1. This sounds really good, Mia :) I love that the protagonist only wanted to learn how to write a mystery... not solve one in real life :)
    Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

    1. As an aspiring mystery writer myself, Lena's character is super fun and relatable.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. You didn't find her throwing pecans at Doug ridiculous/improbable, especially since he was doing Sam A FAVOR?

    And didn't you find it annoying that an old lady, an amateur, would set a trap for a MURDERER?

    I just thought that they weren't scared or nervous enough after a murder had been committed so very close to their house. I'd be checking the doors and windows often to make sure they were locked. I wouldn't be walking alone *anywhere*, even with dogs unless I had a gun or knife on me. I'd be checking the back of my car, the trunk every time I got in to make sure the murderer wasn't hiding there.

    1. I HATED that scene where she threw the pecans. That's the part I referred to in the review where she overreacted and it took me out of the book. Not only was he doing Sam a favor, he's a COP. What a privileged life she must live where she thought it was totally cool to throw something at a cop, even if he was a little sweet on her.

      Camilla setting up a trap didn't really bother me, but I keep my "Suspension of disbelief" standards fairly low for cozies. They didn't quite drift into "too stupid to live" territory, so I was happy enough with the ending.