In Design for Murder, the second book in Carolyn G. Hart’s Death on Demand series, Annie Lawrence is thrilled to be asked to create a murder mystery for the Historical Society of Chastain, South Carolina. The board of the society has voted against the objections of its widely hated chair, Corinne Pritchard Webster, to host this activity. They hope this will increase attendance at its annual program of house and garden tours that show off some of the well-preserved antebellum houses in the city. As owner and proprietor of Death on Demand, a bookstore dedicated exclusively and extensively to mystery novels of all forms, Annie is thrilled with this exciting opportunity.
Annie plans out her whole mystery, and then the day before she is to present the script to the board, she gets a letter from Corinne telling her exactly the plot she is to use. She is angry at this intrusion into her job but wants to do this enough that she goes along with the orders. But when she starts to present the plot of the mystery to the board, everyone becomes really tense, and Corinne gets furious. It seems that someone else has played a trick on Corinne and described all the suspects to fit each person in the committee and the grudge that person has against her. In order to salvage the mystery night, Annie works hard to create a new murder mystery altogether to keep as far from the plot mailed to her and is finally ready to open her first night of the event when she discovers a real murder.
Someone has killed Corinne, and each member of the Historical Society board has good reason to want her dead. However, Chief Wells of Chastain, unwilling to step on the toes of the highly influential people who serve on this board, has set his sights on Annie and Bobby Frazier, the local reporter who has been trying to expose the dirt on members of this committee. When the lady who owns the inn where Annie is staying gets murdered, Annie and her fiance, Max Darling, must set aside their continuing disputes over their wedding ceremony to find the actual murderer in order to ensure that their wedding will even have a chance to go forward.
This book has a creative premise, with the real murder mystery taking place against the backdrop of a murder mystery game. We are reunited with the characters of Hennie (Henrietta) Brawley, Annie’s most enthusiastic customer, and Emma Clyde, the top American woman mystery writer with over 70 books to her resume, both of whom will appear in future books. In addition we are introduced to the imposing Miss Dora, who seems to be on the boards of every significant organization in South Carolina. She too makes appearances in future novels in the series.
Despite the great depiction of the characters of Annie and Max, the rest of the characters tend to be unremarkable, to the extent that I sometimes lost track of them, not certain which name belongs to which scandal that Annie and Max are investigating.
Design for Murder can be found in audio format through Audible.com and is narrated by Kate Reading, a fantastic narrator with great expression and a captivating voice. With 333 books listed on Audible, Reading uses her prolific experience in reading to make this book enjoyable to listen to. This audio book will make any commute or chore become less tedious and pass the time for you more pleasantly.
This second book in the Death on Demand series builds well on the first, though I did wish that we could see the rest of the courtship of Annie and Max to learn how he won her over. Instead, the series skips from their undefined relationship in which Annie is resisting Max’s attempts to court her while still deeply attracted to him in the first book to their being engaged in the second.
My wishes for further characterizations aside, Design for Murder does a good job of keeping the audience entertained and deserves its 4 star rating.
Design for Murder (Death on Demand Mysteries, No. 2) is available now from Amazon.