Staci Troilo and I have been following each other’s blogs for more than a year. We share a love of writing and of a place. Staci grew up in the Pittsburgh area but now lives away from the place I moved to three years ago. I appreciate her stories on her blog about her upbringing in her Italian family and the traditions of that culture within the confines of Pittsburgh. I love to read her posts about her life and her traditions. She’s written several award-winning short stories, and in 2013, she published her first novel, Mystery, Ink – Mystery Heir.
I’ve had her book on my Kindle for five months, but other books always seemed to take precedence. Finally, this past week I started reading her book Mystery Heir, which is the fifth book in the series Mystery, Ink published by Goldminds Publishing.
The book is written in the best tradition of a “cozy mystery” started and perfected by Agatha Christie.
Despite the murders and mayhem in the fictional city of Centerville in a non-named state, the writing is light and breezy. The main character, Naomi Dotson, is annoying, bold, athletic, and lovable all at once. Her sometimes more sensible–albeit fastionista–twin sister, Penelope, provides a great foil for Naomi. The two romp and trespass through the private affairs of some very prominent citizens, which makes up the recipe for a fun-filled mystery.
It’s one thing to follow the formula of a cozy mystery, it’s quite another to pull it off effortlessly so the reader forgets about the reading and only remembers the characters’ dilemmas. In stories of this type, it’s not unusual for all the characters to be rather one-dimensional, but Troilo still managed to make me care about Naomi when she finds herself in terrifying situations she brought on herself.
Troilo achieves what all writers want to achieve. Her writing is flawless, her dialogue believable, and her development of the tensions and mystery of the case Naomi tries to solve creates a story that didn’t feel as if I was reading. I became lost in the travails of the twins.
Whenever the tension becomes too taut, Troilo breaks it up with a nonsensical comment by one of the twins. While they’re holding down two murder suspects after giving them a tai kwon do move, Penelope chides Naomi for not having her phone, which means Penelope has to use hers to call the police. Silly, yet charming.
The twins could have been tragic figures since they lost their parents several years before, but they’re not. Troilo shows the young women as survivors and fighters. Naomi’s curiosity brings her into the middle of a family tree more complicated than the strings of Christmas lights I struggled to unwind a couple of weeks ago.
It’s been a few years since I’ve read a mystery. Years ago, I was hooked on Mary Higgins Clark, but then moved on to different genres. Reading Mystery Heirs made me feel as if I’d found a long-lost friend.
If you want a fast-paced read with charming and humorous characters, Mystery Heirs is a book you’re sure to love.