Engaged to Die

There are few surprises in this fourteenth Death on Demand book. Annie Darling owns the Death on Demand mystery bookstore in Broward’s Rock, South Carolina. Her husband, Max, runs Confidential Commissions, often assumed to be an investigative agency. They have a background of working as a team to solve local murder inquiries, but this time Max alone is deputized to help with a murder probe.

Wealthy widow and gallery owner Virginia Neville throws a party to announce her engagement to Jake O’Neill, a young artist whose work she displays, but he is nowhere to be found when the time arrives for their proclamation. A witness sees Chloe, Annie’s employee, running from the secluded spot where Jake’s body lies. His lifeless hands clutch Chloe’s blood-stained stole, and she admits to having an affair with him during the past week. Naturally the police regard her as the number one suspect. Annie, however, focuses her attention on the cast of characters related to Mrs. Neville’s deceased husband, stepchildren, and others who will lose their chance of inheritance upon Virginia’s remarriage. All are sufficiently hateful of Virginia to arouse Annie’s suspicions. She sneaks a peek at evidence that should be available only to the police—and their deputy, her husband—and launches her own investigation.

The story line, with its formulaic incursions into previously established quirks—the looney mother-in- law, the name-dropping of other mystery writers, the long-running bookstore contest involving identification of mysteries from paintings—seems particularly disjointed this time around, as though too much oft-repeated filler is inserted to maintain the leitmotif of the series, whether or not it is pertinent to the plot.