Book Review – Murder in Miniature

Murder in Miniature

Margaret Grace

Paperback, 2008

 

Okay, my wonderful boyfriend and I were out and about last week and we stopped in my favorite bookstore, Mysteries & More just outside of Nashville, TN.  (Hey, they’re the best parts of the review – I have to give them a plug!)  He bought an armload of stuff.  I, on the other hand, saw one book that caught my eye, but it was the more Halloween themed Monster in Miniature, and I decided that I should start from the beginning of the series if I was going to pick up a new author.  No, cozy mysteries don’t usually require that, but it just seemed like the thing to do.  The fact that there’s a quote on the end of one of the bookshelves about starting a series at the start might have had something to do with it.

This is one of those mysteries-with-a-theme that are somehow all the rage.  In this case, the theme is the world of miniature dollhouse making.  It seemed like a weird pairing, but again, Monster looked good, so I grabbed the first one in the series to start with.

In this book, a lot is going on.  The main character, Geraldine, starts the book by running a craft show at the school.  Then her so-called-friend Linda goes missing from her neighboring table, clutching some sort of miniature desk as she did so.  And, really, I could give you a synopsis, but there’s not much of a point.

I’m just going to give you a list of what I don’t like about the book’s main character.

  • Geraldine is 60, and the book is only 5 years old, so she shouldn’t be some sort of old fuddy-duddy moron, especially being a well-traveled east-coast-to-west-coast transport and retired teacher.
  • But she is a fuddy-duddy moron who seems to hate everything.
  • Her son and daughter-in-law, for instance, can’t even manage to give their daughter a girls name, and name her Madison.
  • Shouldn’t everyone be proud that she’s managed to send emails on her dial-up computer?!
  • How will she ever figure out how to take “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” from her cell phone?
  • Her husband died of cancer.  (And she tells us this like a thousand million times)  In fact, I know more about Ken than I know about some of the characters that are actually *alive* in the book, and he has nothing to do with the story at all!
  • Every time she talks to or about anybody, we’re once again reminded of who they are or what they are – LPPD soon-to-be-detective nephew… annoying friend Linda… adopted son of Linda, Jason… former A student… former not-quite-A-student…  etc
  • Nothing about her grandddaughter – who she loves oh, so much – is good enough for this woman.  Aside from her name, we also have to hear complaints about her eating habits, choice of hobbies, tomboy behaviors, etc.  And from description alone, if we didn’t know the kid was 11, you’d be hard pressed to put her anywhere between the ages of 6 and 17 with any level of conviction.

As a side-note to this argument against the MC, my step-mother is exactly the same age (not quite 60 five years ago…).  And she has no issues with a cell phone (with separate ring tones for everyone), a computer, including email, facebook, etc, or her tablet.  And my niece, who just started middle school (when did that happen?!) is totally a tomboy and that’s totally okay.

So, the book feels like it’s about 50 years behind the time it’s supposed to be in.  The character names are either all timeless or nicknames or antiquated to a couple decades before the character in question was born.

And the book goes on and on and on about how Abraham Lincoln is the founder of the town of Lincoln Point and blah blah and there are quotes everywhere from him and references to him every few pages and – there was no point to it and it got really freakin’ old.  Because first of all, the state of California came into being in 1850, so Lincoln had nothing to do with that, especially since California was pretty much because of Polk and Tyler expanding west and pissing off Mexico.  Most of the expansion into the area had more to do with the gold rush than the statehood, and that was 1848.  Lincoln opposed war with Mexico, and thus would have been against pretty much anything that had to do with it (like the annexation that led to the war) as a member of congress, and he took office just six weeks before the attack on Fort Sumter in 1861, so anything he did as president was civil war and slave related.  Thus, the chance that he would have anything to do with a small California town?  About zero.  But yet, the author felt the need to make up this town and put in a million references to an overused president.

And I haven’t even bitched about the mystery yet.  So somewhere by about page 100, we’ve established most of the mystery and what happened.  And solved most of it.  So the next 150 pages are pretty much pointless and deal with the same crap over and over again – her issues with Maddie, about a dozen really out there bad ideas about the case that she has no reason to really be a part of at this point, a local election that has nothing whatsoever to do with the book…  And the, I dunno, red herrings? in the story are about as obvious and stupid as a three dollar bill.

The miniature theme is somewhat related to the story, but also somewhat stupid, and a lot out of place.  For instance, Linda’s desk is important to the story.  Being told that Geraldine pulled into the driveway with Maddie of her not-miniature house wasn’t even a cute detail to the book.  Working on a miniature scene with Maddie was an acceptable way to give us conversation without just a boring blob of text.  Telling us what fabrics you’re pulling out for your friends projects was a waste of paper.

Also, there are some things that the MC decides on that are such ridiculous jumps of logic that I sat there going WTF for a minute.  Yes, I understand whodunnit, but I feel like I’ve somehow missed two pages of explanation telling me why or how.

I’m going to stop here.  I could spend a lot more words complaining.

 

Here’s the bottom line.

The story had potential, but the author was too preoccupied with telling us about dollhouse miniatures and how the main character was related to everyone and what she thought (negatively) about them.  There are very few good comments about anyone in the book, and the main character’s lack of being able to think about anything nice was really unappealing.  My grandmother may have told *me* she wished I’d change my hairstyle or wear a dress once in a while, but she wouldn’t have told anyone who could listen, and I really wanted to slap Geraldine for the way she talked about her granddaughter by the time the book was done.

While some of the characters are developed somewhat, it’s a weird pick and chose of who matters – why do we know more about Ken than we do about the two dead people they spend half the book collecting gossip about?!

The pacing sucked.  If the last 150 pages were paced like the first 100, it would have been a lot better.

 

I’m going to give the book a 2/5.  If you like cozy mysteries with silly themes or you’re so into miniatures that nothing else matters except that silly little desk, go ahead and pick it up when you’re out of anything else, but I just don’t think you’re going to get enough out of it to want to go out of your way with this one.

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