Select one of the keywords
Engaged to Die: A Death on Demand Mystery    by Carolyn Hart order for
Engaged to Die
by Carolyn Hart
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2004 (2003)
Hardcover, Paperback

Read an Excerpt

* *   Reviewed by Anise Hollingshead

Poor little rich girl ... Virginia Neville hasn't always been rich, but along with money she has inherited problems as well, such as greedy, cold relatives and fortune hunting men. Since her older, rich husband cut out his children in her favor, Valerie is fairly well-off - not bad for a former nurse. However, money doesn't bring happiness and Valerie has had to deal with the cold shoulder treatment from her in-laws for a long time.

Just when Valerie thinks she's found love with a younger man, he's found dead and a girl with whom he'd enjoyed romantic relations is accused of the crime. This particular girl just happens to be a good friend of Annie Darling, the proprietor of Death on Demand, a popular bookstore in Broward's Rock, South Carolina, and Annie is determined to prove her friend's innocence. With the help of her handsome, normally laid-back husband (propelled into uncharacteristic action by being deputized by the acting Chief of Police), Annie is soon delving deeply into the lives and motives of Broward's Rock inhabitants.

This is the latest mystery from Carolyn Hart, author of the popular Death on Demand series featuring Annie and Max Darling. These mysteries specialize in light-hearted banter between husband and wife, and lots of mystery novel trivia. Annie's bookstore is always running contests, and it's a joy to try and figure out the answers before the end of the book. There are also mentions of past and current mystery authors and books. This is intriguing in itself when the reader is unfamiliar with them and requires a pencil and paper to jot notes for future investigation at bookstore or library. The setting of Broward's Rock provides enjoyable background, as Ms. Hart includes plenty of description of local flora and fauna during the course of the story. Lovers of nature, and especially the beach, will appreciate the detail.

The tale begins with short mini-stories of various characters to set up the actual mystery. We learn that Virginia, a timid, unassuming woman, has inherited money from her rich, much older husband and that his children and (especially) their spouses resent it. Virginia is engaged to be married to a younger man, which has caused concern among the needier of her relatives, anxious that her will might be changed. Surprisingly, though, it's not Virginia that dies, but her fianc9. The police have zeroed in on the most obvious suspect, the jilted one-night stand who was ignorant of her lover's engagement. Annie is never afraid to bend a few rules here and there, and soon is slightly at odds with her recently deputized husband and the acting police chief, who is worried about his job performance in his boss's absence. However, faithful readers can be confident that Annie will successfully decipher the mystery without making lasting enemies in the process.

Ms. Hart gives us a humorous, light-hearted approach to the modern mystery on the lines of an Agatha Christie Tommy and Tuppence novel. No lengthy descriptions of autopsies or horrible tales of abuse here, and while there is plenty of romance in Max and Annie's relationship, readers are not invited behind the bedroom door for more than just a glimpse. What they do get are enjoyable conversatons between Annie and her friends, interspersed with details of Broward's Rock, a fictional island off the coast of South Carolina. These books are designed for light reading, and as such will entertain and amuse most readers.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Mystery books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews