After solving multiple murders and other crimes while living in the small town of Shady Hills, New Jersey, Literary Agent Jane Stuart has seen and experienced quite a lot. One thing she should have noticed is the fact that the most obnoxious human beings she comes into contact with often die in one fashion or another. It has been a short three months since the events depicted in the last novel, "Toasting Tina," and once again she is dealing with another truly obnoxious human being. October is in the air and Jane is looking forward to Halloween. She is also looking forward to getting rid of an unwanted houseguest, Crystal Ryerson, sister of Jane's housekeeper, Florence. Crystal is finally getting her own place and Jane hopes to see much less of her.
Jane, for Florence's sake, has suffered Crystal's boorish behavior and meddlesome ways for the last two weeks while she looked for a new place and a new job. Crystal thrives on meddling and seems oblivious and when warned, uncaring regarding the damage she constantly causes on other people's lives. Her new job working at the town's only library has increased the list of those touched by her poisonous personality. It therefore comes as no surprise when she is killed at the library while Jane, her reading group, and numerous other possible suspects who all wished her dead were present for the fatal fall.
Of course, with a nudge from Florence and while recognizing the local police are worthless (except for her love interest, Stanley) Jane begins to ask questions of the numerous suspects. She soon discovers that the tranquil postcard image of her small town hides a dark secret that she had no idea existed. The novel becomes Jane's odyssey to set right numerous wrongs as well as finding a killer while staying alive in the process.
This sixth novel in the series follows the same formula as the earlier novels in the series. The most obnoxious, meddlesome, vile character loved by a couple and hated by many is killed in an ironic way. The local police who seem to still be amazingly inept and are unable to do what Jane does while she manages her literary agency and deals with many authors. The ongoing backdrop of the agency and her client list continues and serves to prove occasional amusement and distraction from the main storyline of this cozy as it has throughout the series. The years pass, and though the characters have aged some, remain fundamentally unchanged with almost zero character development.
For those so inclined the formula continues and works well. For the rest of us looking for the author to show character growth while moving the series to a new level, it might not work so well.
Crushing Crystal (A Jane Stuart and Winky Mystery)
By Evan Marshall
ISBN # 0-7582-0228-8
Kevin R. Tipple © 2005