Board to Death by CJ ConnorBoard to Death by CJ Connor
Series: Board Game Shop #1
Published by Kensington Books on August 22, 2023
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Cozy Mystery
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
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In a trendy Salt Lake City, Utah, neighborhood, Ben Rosencrantz's board game shop has become a community hotspot for players of all ages--and for killer collectors.

Back in his hometown of Sugar House running his family's board game shop and cafe, Ben Rosencrantz just can't seem to get his life to pass go, much less collect $200. Once he was a happily married English professor in Seattle. Now he's a divorced caregiver, looking after his ill father and a chihuahua named Beans while still figuring out the rules of retail management. At least the town has become more LGBTQ+ friendly than when Ben was a teenager--and that flower shop owner Ezra McCaslin enjoys flirting with him.

But despite his usual clientele of gamers, Ben is barely earning enough to keep the store running and stay on top of his father's medical bills. Then a local toy and game collector named Clive offers him a winning strategy--to purchase a turn-of-the-twentieth-century edition of The Landlord's Game, the realty and taxation game that inspired Monopoly, at a tenth of the rare edition's true value. Suspicious of Clive's shady, low-priced deal, Ben turns the offer down.

Then Clive turns up dead in the dumpster behind Ben's shop and a backpack full of $100 bills appears on his doorstep. Now Ben is the #1 suspect in Clive's death, and unless he and Ezra can prove his innocence and find the real killer, he'll go to jail for murder--and no amount of double dice rolls will set him free . . .

I play board games – a lot, which is what drew to Board to Death. It’s set in a game store/ cafe which I thought could be super fun. That’s also the portion I was most disappointed in. The plot revolves in part around a collectible classic board game, which worked. However, the only “modern” board games that were mentioned were Gloomhaven, Pandemic, and maybe Catan – I’m not sure. I don’t know if the author doesn’t actually play board games or assumes the reader doesn’t. The characters played battleship and had a Connect 4 box fall on them and sold Rummikub. No wonder the shop is having trouble. I did enjoy learning about Nertz, a card game the local business association played. The rules were explained in the back of the book and I may have to make people try it, assuming we have enough different decks for everyone, which I think we might.

I did like Ben, though. He’s a good guy, trying to do his best. I also liked the slowly developing romance with the florist next door, Ezra, Ben’s sidekick in solving the mystery.

The mystery was a little predictable but the plot clicked along at a good pace. This is definitely more character based though. Ben is still finding his way in his new life and that is a lot of the focus. Ben is never seriously a suspect in the cops’ eyes, but he doesn’t realize that. He and Ezra do a lot of talking to different people, which also helps us learn about their corner of town.

Overall, Board to Death was enjoyable but annoying too. Maybe my board game expectations were just too high.

About CJ Connor

CJ Connor is a Pitch Wars alumnus as well as a Book Riot and EBSCO NoveList contributor. They write queer romance and cozy mysteries. When they are not writing, they can be found stress knitting, listening to angsty folk music, or walking their chihuahua.

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