invitation to die

Title: Invitation to Die (Emily Castles #1)

Author: Helen Smith

Read by: Alison Larkin

Category: Mystery

Published: May 14, 2013 by Thomas and Mercer

Audio published: October 15, 2013 by Brilliance Audio

Rating: 3½ out of 5 stars

Add: Goodreads

Purchase: Audible | Amazon | Book Depository

Twenty-six-year-old Emily Castles is out of work again. So when famous romance author Morgana Blakely offers her a job helping out at a conference in London, Emily accepts. Just as eagerly, American blogger Winnie Kraster accepts an invitation from Morgana to attend as a guest, not realizing she has, in effect, accepted an invitation to die. As a cast of oddball characters assembles at the conference hotel, grievances, differences, and secrets begin to emerge. When Winnie goes missing, and then is found murdered nearby, Emily begins to suspect that someone involved with the conference is responsible. Could it be one of the organizers, one of the authors, a member of the hotel staff, or even the supplier of the chocolates for the conference gift bags? Emily teams up with guest speaker and eccentric philosophy professor Dr. Muriel to find out. Offbeat and engaging, this entertaining comic mystery is the first full-length novel featuring amateur British sleuth Emily Castles.

I think the cold weather is starting to drive me nuts. Today, I trimmed the ends of my hair, by myself, on the spur of the moment, at the back where I couldn’t see in a mirror. It’s like I was in preschool – “Look mom, I cut my bangs.” Time to make a hair appointment. Thank goodness for audiobooks that keep me company while I’m stuck inside, undecorating. Maybe I should have been listening to one while I was getting ready for work this morning.

My first listen for the year, Invitation to Die is a quirky, fun mystery. I do have to say, though, that it gave me a nightmare one night. My husband always makes fun of me, saying you can tell what kind of book I’m in the middle of by my mood and I can’t really argue. So, the murder victims in the book are both book bloggers and I dreamed someone was trying to kill me, too. Odd for a light mystery to get into my dreams like that.

The story was enjoyable though, not overly violent or descriptive. Emily is an amateur sleuth who keeps notes and pays attention. She’s in over her head, but I feel like she enjoys figuring out the puzzle. Alison Larkin was the perfect reader; she sounded like Emily – young, inquisitive, a bit of an accent.

Of course, there’s an interesting batch of characters, romance writers and book bloggers, even the hotel staff. The descriptions of the authors and the bloggers is amusing, had me laughing at myself as I recognized some of my tendencies, and arguing that, no, really, I’m not like that, even if maybe I sometimes am. There’s some cattiness, petty jealousies. They really are a funny bunch of people, they made me laugh out loud a few times (which always gets me weird looks).

At the grand denouement, which is pretty much announced as such, Emily goes through the clues one by one, more or less arriving at the solution as she talks through it. I for one didn’t put it together. It’s well-plotted, and fair enough to the reader.

It’s not a story that’s going to keep you on the edge of your seat, but it will amuse you.


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