While I have particular series or authors that I tend to follow in most of my crime reading, when it comes to the cozy scene I am something of a free spirit. I tend to play the field, having no long term investment although I wouldn’t be adverse to forming a committed relationship with the right series…
My usual criteria for picking out a cozy is that I like to find something that makes me smile. Sometimes that’s the first page of a novel such as Death on Tap while other times it’s a quirky or unusual concept. Yes, novelty plays a big factor in my decision-making and Blown Away features one of the more unusual and fun business ideas I have encountered yet – the protagonist has started her own beachside kite business, creating artistic designs for collectors and kite aficionados.
Yes, apparently they are a thing. There are even national kite flying championships and while I thought that surely the idea of a dedicated kite store had to be the work of fantasy, it turns out they exist too. No doubt the owner of such a shop is having a conversation at this very minute and scoffing at the notion that there is a very active community of readers online blogging about Golden Age Detective fiction…
On the morning before she opens her new store for the first time, kite shop owner Emmy Adler takes a walk along the beach and discovers a body face down in the sand. It turns out that it is the town’s hot young chef and, because he is her best friend’s ex, Avery immediately comes under suspicion. Things get worse for Avery when the murder weapon is discovered under her bed. Concerned for her friend, Emmy decides to conduct her own investigation, hoping she will be able to use what she finds to steer the Police in the right direction.
One of my most frequent problems with the modern cozy is the way that details of the settings can often be treated as more important than the development of the mystery. That is certainly not the case here as the author spends far more time building up a sense of the community and the characters that Emmy encounters than going into the minutiae of kite construction or operation. Where there is discussion of kites, it generally serves the purpose of the plot, either introducing a character or to advance Emmy’s relationship with someone.
The mechanics of the mystery are fairly standard for the genre, featuring just a single killing to investigate, and there is little sense of invention but they are handled well and the case was never difficult to follow.
The investigation features a varied pool of colorful suspects from across the community with a good mix of motives and each is given the space and development to seem a credible killer. I appreciated this because it meant that the reader will not find the solution by process of elimination but rather they have to imagine a credible solution for themselves.
One of the aspects of this book I appreciated the most was the Emmy is an amateur sleuth who makes mistakes that have consequences. She is drawn into this case to protect someone she loves and this makes her highly partisan, unwilling to consider any evidence that may cast doubt on her friend’s actions. Equally she is quite willing to cast blame onto others, sometimes with damaging consequences.
This behavior makes Emmy feel a more believable, rounded character. Her reasons for getting involved make sense and we can understand why she will keep getting herself into trouble. Her dogged sense of loyalty makes her all the more likeable and while I would often feel frustrated with her reckless decision-making, I felt the character is depicted consistently throughout the novel.
Tate creates a nice mix of secondary characters to flesh out Emmy’s world, including a potential romantic interest (who owns a rival kite shop!), a friend she makes while investigating the case and her kooky, interfering parents. The latter are particularly fun and I laughed out loud at quite a few things they said, not least the repeated references to her father’s Watergate Reenactment Society where he finds himself playing Tricky Dick.
Clearly this novel is working to establish the elements for a series and I appreciated the time the author took to build up some of those interpersonal connections between the characters. It not only pays off well for this novel but I felt that it was setting up things nicely for future adventures.
While I remain free of any long-term commitments, I wouldn’t be adverse to a second date with Emmy and her kites…