Death by Misadventure by E. E. Smith

Posted April 28, 2014 in Book Review / 0 Comments

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I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Death by Misadventure by E. E. SmithDeath by Misadventure by E.E. Smith
Series: Alexis Smith #1
Also in this series: Russian Roulette, Bad Blood, Prescription for Murder
Published by Phoenix International on November 16th 2013
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 197
Format: ARC
Source: ARC from publisher
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four-stars

The sign on her office door reads "ALEXIS J. SMITH - Discreet Inquiries", but a new client of her fledgling detective agency seems to think it means Murder Incorporated. The client, one Kate Faraday, is a former schoolmate (Sacramento High, class of '41) who wants to hire Lexie to find her husband, Frank. During their initial interview it becomes clear that she doesn't want him back "dead or alive," she wants him dead! 

If it were anyone else, the intrepid young private investigator would never have taken the job, but there is a problem. Lexie herself has been in love with Frank ever since they were all together in high school. She makes a desperate decision to find him and warn him of his wife's mad intentions. 

She travels to England and finds Frank staying at a country inn called The Old Vicarage, next to a little Norman church still haunted by a 12th Century ghost. What she discovers reveals a woman bent on vengeance, not only on her husband, but on Lexie, as well. Are they both marked for murder? How all this plays out, and culminates in a shoot-out at The Old Vicarage, is the climax of the story -- but not the end.

Main Points
Writing Style
The writing was good. However, I noticed two things. One: facts were repeated a lot, sometimes even shortly after they were first mentioned, as if we, the readers, may have already forgotten. This happened maybe twice or thrice. Two: the narrator, Alexis, had an almost indifferent tone about a lot of things, making it seem a little off at times when I would expect it to be emotional. But it was a bit refreshing in keeping things simple rather than making a big fuss over things.
Plot (a few hidden spoilers)
The story goes pretty much how you would expect it to. She ends up finding Frank, and pretty soon they’re both in danger. There are a few unexpected things, like the ghost (whose presence was sudden but not unwelcome). Some small elements ended up playing a pivotal role, and there was one pretty big plot twist, but it wasn’t entirely unpredictable (which is a really good thing). 
I liked the flashback to Alexis’ younger years. It revealed a lot about her character and motivation and I got more invested in her. Later, she was still pretty young and lacking experience, but she came across as a strong woman most of the time and I respected her. 
I may not have agreed with every decision she made but I could sympathize with her. View Spoiler »
It was kind of ironic, though, that her viewpoint was so objective, considering she was (or should have been) so emotionally invested in the case (which is never good, but still). So in a way, it was good that she was able to keep her head so well. Very admirable.
Characters
Alexis: I felt like we really began to know her through her backstory, which she explained towards the beginning of the book. She also seemed one of the few rational people in the whole story, though she was still inexperienced in her field.
Kate: Total nutjob. 
Frank: Similarly a nutjob. His lack of fear (or perhaps comprehension of the situation) was deadly and irrational. Also I find it really unlikely that he would remember Alexis so well after all those years, much less still be infatuated with her…
Harry: He was so nice. I knew from the first meeting that he would be around for a long time. But I did think that he gave Alexis a little too much free reign, even when he knew she was in a lot of trouble. Honestly I’m surprised he didn’t get the police involved sooner. But considering he was one of the most supportive of Alexis, I can’t think too badly of him. I hope we see more of him.
Setting
I really liked that it was set around WWII. I hadn’t really expected that but it was a nice surprise. I like historical fiction because it helps me understand history better (not my best subject) because it’s seen through the eyes of those who actually experienced it, not like textbooks where it’s only written about later. And I’ve always been interested in the WWII era. It was really intriguing (and eye-opening) to read about the issues Alexis faced as a woman with a career and ambition. At certain points I was thinking, ‘I can’t believe he actually said that to her!’ But I’m sure that’s exactly how women were treated. I’m glad Alexis at least earned some respect. But I was glad the book wasn’t that war-heavy. It was done very well.
Ending
It was a truly fair ending. It did indeed end in ‘death by misadventure’, but thankfully I hadn’t grown too attached to those who ended up biting the dust. There was karma involved. And while it wasn’t a completely happy ending, it was mostly. I actually hadn’t expected there to be a sequel when I found out there were more books. I was pleasantly surprised. I’ll be continuing with the series.

 

Good vs. Bad

 

Good:

  • ending
  • setting
  • plot
  • writing
  • characters
  • pacing
  • predictability (or lack thereof)

Less than perfect:
  • narrator’s tone (at times)
  • certain characters’ believability


Bottom Line
This was a wonderful, short mystery. The plot was intriguing and the setting was fascinating. The characters were far from boring and there were a few fun twists. Would I read more by this author? Yes. I will continue the series. Would I recommend this book to others? Yes.

About E.E. Smith

E. E. Smith lives close to her native San Francisco where, after many years as a playwright, she now writes books and short stories instead of plays. One story was published in Writers’ Forum: Britain’s Best Magazine for Writers, in 2006. The play, WARTIME RECIPES, first performed in Oklahoma City in 1998, was reprised there in 2010. Her first novel, BOARDINGHOUSE STEW, was published in 2009, and the New Edition published in 2011. The second novel, TIMES LIKE THESE, was also published in 2011, and IN LOVE AND WAR, a memoir, was published in 2012. She debuted as a mystery writer with Death by Misadventure in 2013. At least three more books in the series will follow in 2014 and beyond

Rating
Plot
four-stars
Characters
three-half-stars
Writing
three-half-stars
Setting
four-half-stars
Romance
three-half-stars
Cover
four-half-stars
Ending
four-stars
Overall: four-stars
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