Invitation to Die by Helen Smith
We don’t do many book reviews on Lady Smut, but every once in a while there’s a book that totally captivates one of us. I had the pleasure of meeting Helen Smith at Bouchercon (the huge annual mystery conference that took place in Albany last autumn) and found her warm and witty — and I’m glad to say her books reflect the same spirit.
There’s an extra pleasure for romance writers and readers in Invitation to Die. Here’s the blurb:
Emily Castles is 26 and unemployed, so when romance writer Morgana Blakely offers her a job helping out at a conference in London it’s an opportunity she can’t turn down. When Morgana offers American blogger, Winnie Kraster, an invitation to attend the conference as her guest, she too eagerly accepts the offer. What Winnie doesn’t realise is that her invitation entails a little more than just a visit to London. The guests gather and every one of them has a motive for murder, so when Winnie disappears and is then found dead, Emily knows that her killer is among the assembled gathering. The question is, which one of them did it? Emily teams up with the conference’s guest speaker, eccentric philosophy professor Dr Muriel, to uncover the truth.
Every little bit of the story shows someone who knows and loves the genre as well as being aware of its foibles. You will recognize the sort of authors and bloggers teasingly portrayed with a sense of fun but also realistically enough to be more than mere caricatures. I laughed out loud a lot while reading this. There are some great passages including an epic blogger dream of success but it’s near the end so I don’t want to give anything away. Here are a few good bits:
Surely there was a more appropriate word than gathering: a pash, a kiss, a smooch of romance authors?
“I have never been so humiliated!”
Cerys whispered to Zena, “There speaks a man. Never had a smear test or a mammogram.”
“I think, if you don’t mind, I’ll start at the end and work backward.”
“Who are you? Martin Amis?”
Smith is more than just amusing, however; the mystery is well spun and will keep you guessing right up until the end. Emily Castles is an unassuming young woman, not a snoopy busybody. She’s motivated more by curiosity than anything else and quietly observant of the people around her. She’s nice which seems to be a rare attribute in heroines. I loved the professor Dr Muriel, too. Perhaps there’s just something delightful about an intelligent older woman who speaks her mind.
Check out Smith — you’ll be delighted. And follow her journey across the globe! She’s just set off on a cruise from Southampton to San Diego with a bunch of stops in between. Sounds like fun!