Review: “Review of Murder & The Monkey Band (A High Desert Cozy Mystery Series Book 1)” by Dianne Harman.

Murder and The Monkey Band, High Desert Cozy Mystery Series by Dianna Harman A review by Vanessa.

Marty is a recently divorced antique appraiser who has moved into her psychic sister’s compound in High Desert California. When her boss refers her to appraise the estate of a recently murdered woman, she finds herself caught up in a murder mystery. The woman, Pam, owned a collection of antiques and art that might just be worth killing for. A collector has been after her for years. Pam’s son is an entrepreneur with nothing but bad luck in business who needs the cash. Her housekeeper has a sick kid at home and might just be persuaded to take a bribe.  And Pam’s recently deceased husband’s best friend has been in love with her forever and may be bad at taking no for an answer. With a handsome detective who is just as interested in Marty as he is in solving the case, and her psychic sister along for the ride, Marty might just have a hand in solving the case.

Harman’s setting for this book is both beautiful and interesting in its simple stark desert backdrop. Her descriptions of the surroundings make me want to visit the area in California that plays home to this book’s characters. Unfortunately that is my most positive note about this novel. It seemed like the murder mystery equivalent of easy-listening. Like that Sunday afternoon made-for-TV movie where everything is always just a little predictable and a bit one dimensional. Sometimes you want something like that, but in the genre of murder-mystery it just doesn’t fit. The details about the art and antiques were very interesting; more interesting than the characters themselves.

The character’s interactions with each other just seemed unnatural. Things are over-explained in dialogue, and it felt like all of the characters only existed to further the storyline. Their motivations were often very predictable and less than engaging. The romantic aspect between the characters presents itself in a clumsy, awkward and rather eye-rolling manner. The reading experience could not be described as anything more than quietly pleasant, which in general is not what I look for in a murder mystery. The psychic sister character has the potential to be an interesting and dynamic character, but even she turns out to be more in shades of gray without adding any real life or color to the story. Overall it wasn’t terrible, but it was sorely lacking in the “mystery” department. Even the final action was announced ahead of time by one of the characters, leaving no mystery left for the reader. In the end this book was like a beautiful picture frame where the picture inside was just too unfocused. There was too much detail where it wasn’t necessary and not enough where it really mattered.

My rating: 2/5 stars.

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