Review: A Field Guide to Homicide

In this cozy mystery from Lynn Cahoon, Cat Latimer, her business partner Shauna, and Cat’s boyfriend Seth host a writer’s retreat at the bed and breakfast run. While the group is out hiking, Cat takes a photo of one of the couples. While looking at the photo to ensure she hasn’t committed any stranger photo faux pas, she notices a leg sticking out of a huckleberry bush behind the couple. The unfortunate owner of the leg is an old Army buddy of Seth’s, Chance. The problem is that Chance supposedly died in Germany years ago.

Cat’s uncle Pete leads the investigation, and his girlfriend, Shirley (formerly law enforcement herself) is down from Alaska visiting. Both Shirley and Cat put themselves into the investigation. Seth also has some of his former Army buddies in town for a reunion. It’s a little busy in this small Colorado town. The dead man was sitting on a gold claim, and according to his bank records, was receiving two grand a month into his bank account. Since he was living under an assumed name, was completely off the grid, and rarely visited town, who killed him, and why?

I’ll admit that cozies are not really my jam these days. It isn’t that they don’t have gore or explicit scenes. It’s just that I like more detail than often is given about crime scenes and procedures. For instance, we don’t find out much of anything about the initial crime scene here. Chance’s body is just kind of found and it kicks off the investigation. A journal the dead man kept and that Cat reads a couple of times doesn’t really yield much to push the story forward (except the romance part, as the dead man writes about how Seth, Cat’s high school sweetheart, bought a ring and was going to ask her to marry him back in the day, before she married another man).

The writer’s retreat aspect of the book could easily have been left out or swapped for anything else. We rarely see the two couples and the young man who make up the five people at the B&B. One of the characters even makes a comment about how little interaction there is between Cat, who is presumably running the thing, as a published writer, and the others. What we do get an awful lot of, though, is talking. Pete shows up now and again to fill Cat in, Seth tells Cat a teeny bit about his Army past, Shirley shows up to tell Cat about something she has gleaned by hanging out with Pete – you get the idea.

We also get a ton of food: breakfast, lunch, dinner at the B&B, restaurant food, people eating, people talking about eating, and so on. Shauna, it turns out, is writing a cookbook, with Mrs. Rice, the next door neighbor Cat doesn’t particularly like, as her beta eater.

There is a little bit of chat from Cat about publishing and how it works, and a pep talk to the young man about writing what he loves, a few scenes where Cat goes off to write, but again, all of this could have been left out, as it really adds nothing to the story. It’s as if the retreat group was simply a box to tick because the series demands it. Yes, the series is about a writer running a writing retreat; however, there’s nothing in this book that requires they be there.

The “who” in the whodunnit comes a bit out of nowhere, with an ending that wraps things up nicely with a bow, although a bit improbably.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

Thanks to NetGalley and Kensington for the advance copy.

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