Genealogist Lucy Lancaster loves tacos; she loves Austin, Texas; and she certainly loves her business, Ancestry Investigations. She considered proving a Texas billionaire's great-great-grandfather was murdered a highlight of her career until the billionaire jumps the gun and names his grandfather's killer on air.
There's no proof that an ancestor of Senator Daniel Applewhite killed Seth Halloran; nevertheless, houses start getting broken into, artifacts are stolen, a former co-worker of Lucy's is murdered, and Lucy herself is threatened. This genealogist had no idea that shaking the branches of some family trees could prove to be so deadly.
Murder Once Removed is the first in the promising Ancestry Detective cozy series set in Texas. Author S.C. Perkins used her setting to perfect advantage: not only did I want to book a flight to Austin for a visit, but she also made me crave Mexican food. (Thank heaven Big Flaco's Tacos isn't here!)
Another strong part of her setting is the old office building in which Lucy shares space with her two best friends, Serena the personal shopper and British Josephine who's a translator. Perkins has set up a good supporting cast for Lucy which also includes Juan "Big Flaco" Medrano (the food magician, yum) and NPH-- Neil Patrick Housecat-- among others. The cast might get even larger if some of the family members who were mentioned return from their travels in future books.
The mystery is a good one in Murder Once Removed, plenty of misdirection and red herrings, and I enjoyed trying to figure it out. But there were a couple of things that I didn't enjoy quite so much. Lucy is not supposed to be a fashionista-- preferring to wear jeans and t-shirts to work-- but readers are given a blow-by-blow description of everyone's physical appearance and wardrobe. All the needless detail slows down the pace of the book. There's also a rather run-of-the-mill romantic interest for Lucy-- the gorgeous law enforcement guy who rubs her fur the wrong way-- that really wasn't necessary. Just once, I wish the main character would fall for a homely guy who wasn't licensed to carry any deadly weapons, you know?
Thankfully, the mystery, Lucy and her gang, and the Austin setting rose above the wordy descriptions and ho-hum romance. I'm looking forward to seeing what family tree Lucy shakes next.
Murder Once Removed by S.C. Perkins
Minotaur Books © 2019
Hardcover, 336 pages
Cozy Mystery, #1 Ancestry Detective mystery
Source: the publisher & NetGalley