Elaine Orr’s APPRAISAL FOR MURDER is the first in her Jolie Gentil mystery series. The book is a snappy read with all the ingredients of a first class mystery including a sleuth with an unquenchable spirit who will engage your heart and mind.
If you’ve been through a divorce or an otherwise gruesome time of your life, you will appreciate the unquenchable spirit and wry humor of Ms. Jolie Gentil, the protagonist of this series.
In APPRAISAL FOR MURDER Jolie returns to her roots in the fictitious Ocean Alley, somewhere on the Jersey Shore. The protagonist comes back for convalescence following the sudden and surprising financial betrayal (read `theft’) by her estranged husband. She interacts with the inhabitants of Ocean Alley with wit and verve, brings along her cat, Jazz, and stays with Aunt Madge and her two dogs.
Jolie reacquaints herself with the community, including some former classmates and earns pin money by doing real estate appraisals. When one of Aunt Madge’s friends is murdered, the police are quick to point to a suspect, but at the end of the book Jolie proves them wrong. As a plus there’s hint of a romance or two bubbling on the burner.
Told from the first-person point of view of Jolie Gentil (“It’s pronounced Zho-Lee Zhan-tee,” the protagonist is quick to tell us), the author, Elaine Orr, brings the Jersey Shore to life. Jolie runs on the boardwalk, takes the dogs on long walks, smells the salt tang of the sea air, reacquaints herself with old high school chums, and slowly uncovers evidence to reveal the perpetrator. She leaves no stone unturned. Evidence, leads, suspects, all are presented logically, slowly, and uncovered completely.
Along the way Jolie is harassed by one of her estranged husband’s thuggish creditors. He is one of the antagonists. Without spoiling the mystery, I won’t say any more, except that he is not out of place on the Shore. The author handles his presence and storyline quickly and deftly, weaving this line into the rest of the story. He is a surprise each time he appears, and not the only one. The humor as well as the plot make this book fresh and new and hard to put down.
Themes include the healing power of humor, the success, if slow, of honest labor. Lucky Jolie, to have her sense of humor and an aunt like Madge; lucky us, to have an author like Elaine Orr.
But don’t look for blinding epiphanies or Sturm und Drang. APPRAISAL FOR MURDER is a light mystery, and billed as such. I did not see any character arc: there is no essential change in the protagonist, other than solving the mystery.
The book is the first in a series. The second has already been published, thanks to the miracle of Amazon and Smashwords, so you won’t have to wait to read it, and doubtless the third is in the pipeline. If you seek a new mystery series with a protagonist who will win your heart, a place that reeks of the Jersey Shore, a story that will keep you turning pages, APPRAISAL FOR MURDER is for you.
I found only one typo, an article typed twice. Otherwise, the grammar, punctuation, and formatting are immaculate.
APPRAISAL FOR MURDER is available in print or ebook
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1466395079
My Rating: 4 Stars
About the Author:
Elaine L. Orr has written fiction and nonfiction for many years and recently introduced the Jolie Gentil cozy mystery series. Elaine was born in Washington, DC and grew up in Maryland. She moved to the Midwest in the mid-1990s and met her husband in a writers’ group in an Iowa library. After working for public and private sector employers, she now writes full-time. She and her husband, Jim Larkin, live in Indiana. To learn more, visit her web site.
Fiction includes the Jolie Gentil cozy mystery series. Elaine created a setting she likes (an east coast beach town) and a profession that would let Jolie meet a lot of people and have an opportunity to get into a lot of trouble (real estate appraising). And friends, lots of friends.
“Secrets of the Gap” is set in Bath, England, home of the astonishing Roman Baths that have been excavated since the late 1870s. It’s a wonderful site and you’ll enjoy the mystery.