Text Addict's Reviews > Scrapbook of Secrets

Scrapbook of Secrets by Mollie Cox Bryan
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's review
Apr 18, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: cozy-mystery, jewish-characters, virginia, subtype-crafts
Read in April, 2012

This cozy mystery brings us to Cumberland County, Virginia. (Apparently by reading a lot of these things, I’ll be able to vicariously visit the whole country.) And it’s also one of two series I’m aware of that have scrapbooking as the, hmm, creative focus of the characters.

There’s a lot to like about this book, such as: characters ranging in age from youngish moms to outright elderly; a Jewish point-of-view character who actually struggles with issues related to being Jewish in exurban Virginia; acknowledgment of racial issues (at least in the past); generally matter-of-fact dealings with issues of sex and sexuality and infidelity. And I’m okay with the slight supernatural element (ghosts).

Unfortunately, it has no narrative tension. The story meanders through multiple points of view, which is generally interesting but does little to advance the plot. I think the author’s goal was to explore the repercussions of the victim’s murder and of her activities prior to her death. Laudable, certainly, but the result is a series of incidents that connect poorly to each other and don’t create much of a feeling of progress toward the goal of solving the mystery. This may be like reality, but reality doesn’t make a good narrative.

Also, I was really annoyed by certain characters’ decision to go off and confront the probable murderer. They’re both smarter than that … and then the whole confrontation fizzled rather than exploding.

The bones of a good story are here; it just needed to be executed better. I may give the forthcoming second volume of the series a chance, but I’m not sure.

ETA: The book is also a more-than-usually-noticeable grammatical offender - specifically, in failure to use the past participle tense. That's the tense used when a narrative already written in the past tense refers to events in its own past. For example, "Until today, she had brought cookies to every meeting," versus "Until today, she brought cookies to every meeting." Every time the simple past tense is used instead of the past participle, the reader has to work out whether the narrative is referring to its present, or to something in its past. Not good, especially when it's unclear which was meant.
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