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3.2 out of 5 stars
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3.2 out of 5 stars
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on 4 May 2015
In this third entry in the Emily Castles mystery series, our heroine is assisting at a romance writers conference. I loved this concept and, as you can probably guess, it mades for some very entertaining and amusing insights into the whole publishing world. Nothing escapes Ms. Smith's witty pen as she takes subtle digs at authors, bloggers, conventions, fans, book signings and panel discussions. There's almost nothing that does not fall under her droll pen, but it's all done with good humor and makes for a highly enjoyable read.

With each outing, I come to like Emily more and more. Her laissez-faire attitude almost makes the crime seem to solve itself. With her ambitious note-taking and seemingly disparate clues, she still manages to pull everything together and unmask the killer in time for a good old-fashioned denouement. This is quintessential British mystery writing at its finest.

**I was given a free copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review**
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on 9 August 2017
cozy-mystery, amateur-sleuth, London, writers

Droll humor and wacky characters are the best parts of this book. There is something a little dull with the plot, but I can't quite put my finger on it. It just didn't suit me.
Purchased as Whispersync on the cheap courtesy of Book Gorilla.
Alison Larkin is an expressive narrator.
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on 21 March 2015
This is a great book. You won't have a clue to who did it! I loved it! This one is going on my must re-read list. It really is that good of a mystery. I can't wait for the next one. Emily is such a great character that you can't help but love her.
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This is the first book by Helen Smith that I have read and a good introduction to the Emily Castles mysteries. The story is based in an hotel in London for a conference of romantic writers. Winnie, from America and not a writer of romance, received an email as an 'Invitation To Die' and to attend the writer's conference as a guest. Winnie never made it to the conference and was found dead outside the back of the hotel.

The first chapter is a bit loud in that it introduces most of the characters who are a vociferous and kaleidoscopic bunch. Once you've put a face to the names it's easy to follow their roles in the plot. Emily Castles is a curious character and solver of crimes in the most British of ways. From a room full of writers, hotel staff, suspicious chocolates and poisoning, she begins to jot down in her notebook anything significant, unusual or just whatever comes into her mind as being out of the ordinary. From the eclectic mix of characters, I couldn't pick one of them as the murderer and when a second death happened I was completely at a loss as to who could be the culprit.

In the final chapter I had three suspects but still didn't have a firm clue which one 'did it'. Emily Castles stands armed with her notebook and literally thinks and speaks on her feet. The murderer is revealed and unsurprisingly wasn't one of my shortlisted stooges.

Helen Smith uses colourful characters and cleverly weaves a web of deceit and confusion so that the reader doesn't guess who did it until the very end.

Well worth a read and I shall seek out more books by her.
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on 10 June 2013
Invitation to Die had enormous potential and the makings of an entertaining "whodunnit" and while it did entertain I felt that something was missing. To my own discredit, I can't tell you what that something missing was, exactly. Part of my issue was the end of the book-it felt really rushed and I wanted more... more pages... more Emily... just more explanation even. The conclusion felt a bit rushed to me. To be fair, Invitation to Die was originally issued as a Kindle Serial so maybe knowing that threw me off a bit?

I also got the hint that there was a backstory to heroine Emily Castles; Smith drops in little clues about Emily's relationship with Detective Rory James and Dr Muriel among other things that I didn't get at all. I'm assuming that's because I've not read either of the short stories (Three Sisters, Showstoppers) featuring Castles. As a standalone novel, Invitation to Die could have done with a bit more backstory on Emily.

Enough negativity! Helen Smith's writing style is very easy to read and enjoy. She's very clear and concise without seeming sharp but also doesn't dither away on little details and "fluff" in her writing. There's nothing worse than a writer going on for paragraphs about the "dewey morning" or what-have-you.

And the characters-whoo wee! I Loved (that's right, big L!) the writers in the RWGB, particularly Zena and Nic, the hotel manager, had me in fits. I currently work in the conference and events industry so it was fun to read a book based in a setting that I'm (very) familiar with-minus the murdering. So far, anyhow.
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on 11 September 2015
Whilst I love psychological thrillers and police procedurals, sometimes I need a lighter, quirkier crime book to read. In the past I've turned to Alexander McCall Smith for this but I've now discovered Helen Smith. This is the third book of her Emily Castle series that I've read and I love them. Poor Emily just can't get a full time permanent position and seems destined to temp for the rest of her life. As a result, well meaning friends offer her little snippets of work to do so she ends up helping to run a Romance Writers' Conference. It isn't long before one of the delegates is found dead, most definitely murdered. Armed with her notepad and pen, Emily sets out to solve the murder of book blogger Winnie a.k.a. Tallulah.

I don't want to give anything else away but I didn't guess who had done it - much to my annoyance! I really enjoy Helen Smith's style and the way she pokes gentle fun at writing in general e.g. Zena's subject for the conference ' 'What am I? A Piece of Wood?' - a look at the depiction of people of colour in literature'.

But mostly, I just love Emily. She's as innocuous as Miss Marple so let's hope she has as many temp jobs as 'Aunt Jane' had relatives and friends to visit.
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on 14 June 2013
Having read both of the Emily Castle Mysteries, I was excited to read the new one and I think that the idea of it being a serial story is exciting. This first segment does a great job of setting up the story and introducing the characters. I love how Helen Smith creates these very real and very quirky characters in her stories. She has a wonderful ability to describe people and places so well that you feel like you are right there in the story. I am anxious to see more of Emily, who was only briefly introduced in this episode!

Now that the series is complete, I want to add to my original first episode review and give a better idea of the book as a whole. Every book in the Emily Castles Mysteries has painted a better picture of who Emily is. There is something very appealing about this character. She finds herself in these random and bizarre circumstances and yet remains inquisitive and unflappable. I think part of what I like the most about Emily is that she is so down to earth and "normal" and yet she is constantly surrounded by these eccentric personalities that are so well developed and described by Helen Smith.

It is not necessary to have read any of the other two Emily Castles stories to read and enjoy Invitation to Die but if you haven't I highly recommend that you check out Three Sisters (Emily Castles Mysteries) and Showstoppers (Emily Castles Mysteries). They are both great!
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on 23 March 2015
Having read the Emily Castles mysteries (The London Stories), I looked forward to reading this full length novel. I wasn't disappointed (correct spelling, sorry I couldn't resist it! Read this book to understand it...). I loved this book!

A fantastic assortment of eccentric characters - but unlike some books where a lot of characters equals one dimensional shadows - these are real and fully formed. The reader is pulled into their quirky world completely and utterly. Emily Castles is the voice of sanity and composure in a swelling sea of blogs, bags, and books.

Cosy, witty, laugh out loud funny, and deliciously entertaining - I can't wait for more Emily Castles!
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on 6 October 2015
Sshh... whisper it, but I do have a secret passion for the subgenre of cosy crime! Before I gravitated to the altogether more hard-boiled, darker side of crime fiction I found my feet in the world of cosy crime. Still, to this day, I am a devotee of M.C. Beaton and the Agatha Raisin series and like to indulge in a lighter, quirkier and altogether more humorous read on occasions. Better still, when this comes from the pen of an author who writes well, introducing a cast of colourful and idiosyncratic characters and producing a fast moving and captivating storyline. And Helen Smith can certainly write... Invitation to Die is an absolute hoot from start to finish and should be compulsory reading for all book reviewers and bloggers.

Finding herself once again out of work, twenty-six year old Londoner Emily Castles accepts a temporary position helping out at the hosting of a romance writers' conference in Bloomsbury, central London. For the first time this year, bloggers have been invited to the conference and this has caused a little disquiet amongst the organising committee, all of whom are authors with egos highly sensitive to the reviews their books receive! Taking place in a posh hotel which has a new manager who is keen to impress, and with all the authors seeming to have their own niggles about the attending bloggers this is all set up for a delightful slice of British mystery action at its most farcical and Invitation to Die does not disappoint!

The three bloggers who have been invited to attend have 'won' an online competition to produce a 200 word romantic setting. Bizarrely none of the organising committee can even remember casting their vote on the entrants and the invited trio, including one hailing from the USA appear a diverse batch. When two out of the three bloggers die at the hotel and a number of peculiar coincidences occur there is very soon a mystery afoot.

Backed up by the eccentric Dr. Muriel Crowther, with her trusty notebook in hand, Emily Castles works through the events and puzzles over the influencing factors. It is wonderfully charming when Emily works through the various facts in the final revelations and whilst I would have loved a more detailed portrayal of Emily herself, perhaps her sweet and unassuming appearance and studious intelligence allow her to segue discreetly into the background and allow her to ponder on events. I would therefore like to see how the Emily Castles character develops and understand that she does indeed feature in more stories. Dr. Muriel Crowther obviously has a great deal of spirit and I was itching for her to be introduced in further detail. It seemed that the people who were at the heart of solving these mysteries were also those individuals who characters were less clearly developed and this was a source of disappointment to me.

I believe Invitation to Die was originally produced as a Kindle Serial however I had the joy of experiencing in it's entirety - I certainly do not think I would have had the patience to wait for the next instalment and it certainly kept my attention wonderfully. This is my first read from Helen Smith and indeed from her series of mysteries which feature Emily Castles. I can certainly see myself reading more of the Emily Castles series and being tempted to try other novels by this author. Regardless of whether an author is writing cosy crime or the cynical, darker side of the crime world, what matters is that the author writes well, engages readers and keeps the momentum up and Helen Smith certainly does this!

Terrifically witty, this is cosy crime at it's best! An astute and very shrewd commentary on the insidious world of book publishing, reviewing and blogging from an author who is not afraid to poke fun at the industry. A must for all book reviewers and bloggers and anyone who has written an online review for any product or service, this is cosy crime given the classy treatment.

Review written by Rachel Hall (@hallrachel on Twitter).
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on 21 March 2015
A very interesting murder mystery set at a romantic writers convention. The author introduces (and hilariously skewers) a variety of eccentric characters, tossing in enough red herrings to keep the reader guessing until the end who the murderer is. While the subject is murder, the book is lighthearted in tone, and very funny, primarily by Ms Smith's sharp depictions of the main characters. Highly recommended.
Update. My wife just finished Invitation to Die and rates it 5 stars. She particularly likes the lack of gore and graphic violence.
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