Book Review: A Deception Most Deadly (A Cassie Gynne Mystery #1) by Genevieve Essig

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Genre: Historical Mystery
Publisher: Bookouture
Publication Date: January 14th, 2022
Pages: 340, Kindle
Source: NetGalley

Florida, 1883. Cassie Gwynne is looking for a fresh start when she steps off the steamship at Fernandina harbor for the first time. She’s trying hard to be a proper lady, for once. She’s styled her unruly hair, shined her boots, and even purchased a whole new fashionable (or at least fashionably priced) wardrobe. However, she’s certain finding a body is not very ladylike behavior…

While out exploring the beautiful island with her Aunt Flora, Cassie stumbles across the body of Peanut Runkles, town grump and her aunt’s neighbor, lying at the foot of the harbor pilots’ lookout tower. To make matters worse, because Peanut and Flora have been quarreling for years over everything from Flora’s eccentric ideas to her pet pig’s fondness for Peanut’s vegetable patch, Flora is immediately arrested for murder.

Desperate to save the only family she has left, Cassie vows to prove Flora’s innocence and untangle the mystery herself, no matter how much the surly local sheriff disapproves. Cassie’s brilliant mind and nose for a clue lead her on an investigation that takes her all around the island, and even earns her a valiant furry friend in Esy the kitten.

But how does the mysterious ledger Cassie finds hidden in a secret drawer in Peanut’s desk connect to the crime? Cassie is determined to dig up the truth, but can she catch the killer before her time on the island comes to a deadly end?

A Deception Most Deadly, the first in a cozy mystery series by Genevieve Essig, is a bit of a mess. It’s a fun mess, but it’s a mess all the same.

Cassie Gwynne has come to Florida to meet the aunt she has never known. Shortly thereafter, the local curmudgeon is killed, and Cassie’s aunt Flora becomes the prime suspect.

It’s a good thing the characters are so likeable, because the book reads more like a modern-day cozy that just happens to be set about 140 years ago. Cassie is not all that bright, yet she somehow solves the case ahead of multiple officials. You’d also think, given the results of her behavior back home, that she’d be a bit more circumspect now.

I think the author tried a little too hard to write a madcap cozy, and while it works some of the time, it does feel forced on occasion. Essig’s sophomore effort will hopefully be stronger.

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