Sunday, July 15, 2018

Book Review: The Stork (A Shelby McDougall Mystery Book 2) by Nancy Wood

Enjoy a Satisfying ‘Whew’ When Its All Over

The Stork is a well-crafted mystery with a tense, action-filled finale.  The story starts fast, with a middle-of-the-night, hysterical call for help.  A child has been kidnapped.  But not just any child – one that Shelby McDougall, the series heroine, gave birth to as a surrogate mother (in Book 1 of the series).  The pace then moderates.  Minor details like the sequence of California roads taken between point A and point B get perhaps too much coverage, but the discoveries sprinkled throughout the midsection will hold your interest.  Then, things heat up again for the finale, allowing the reader a satisfying ‘whew’ when it’s all over.

There are a couple of factors a potential reader should know in advance.  First, although part of a series, this book is standalone.  However, if you read this one first, you may have little motivation to return to book 1 (Due Date).  That’s because there are fairly extensive flashbacks in this book and you end up knowing the characters, the plot, and even the outcome of book 1 (beyond the obvious that the heroine of the series survives).  So, I’ll make the highly surprising and completely radical suggestion that you start at the beginning…or plan on reading only this one.

Second, if you are a fan of hard-boiled, procedurally detailed crime mysteries, you may not get your fill.  Shelby is a PI-in-training, and so, some of her extremely ill-advised choices of what to investigate and what to let slide and what to tell colleagues and what to omit are frustrating.  But they are also undoubtedly by design; I expect that Shelby will mature with the series.  But some are also a bit too convenient – why isn’t anyone looking at the children’s miraculous capabilities as a way to solve the crime?   And there are a few errors, like expecting an outdoor motion detector to be activated by throwing a stick in front of it.  But overall, these are minor.

I particularly enjoyed the author’s imaginative turns of a phrase, often related to a character’s emotions.  Where many authors might write the first five words of this sentence to show surprise, Wood’s take is:  “My jaw dropped in surprise and I snapped it shut, feeling like it’d been opened and closed by some external force. As if I were the dummy and the universe was the ventriloquist.”  It would be easy to get carried away with this kind of ‘cuteness’, but to her credit, Wood doesn’t.

Overall, The Stork is a well-crafted book that starts strong, sprinkles a few discoveries in the middle to keep you hooked, then ends with a bang.  And while tense in places, it’s cozy feel makes for a comfortable, summer-afternoon read.

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