In The Root of All Evil, the fourth book in Ellery Adams’ Hope Street Church Mystery series, the Bible study group serves treats at the church school’s parent night. There, Cooper Lee meets Sylvia, the school’s art teacher and bonds with her. Thus, Cooper and the rest of her Bible study group are horrified to learn of the discovery of Sylvia’s stabbed body in the pastor’s office early one morning. Since several local churches have experienced a series of break-ins, the police assume that Sylvia disturbed the thief in action and was killed to avoid discovery.
Cooper and her friends interview various friends of Sylvia, including a semi-stalker who refers to the murdered woman as “My Sylvia,” Sylvia’s best friend, and Sylvia’s ex-husband. They discover a connection to a mob boss, for whom Sylvia’s ex-husband, a gambling addict, once worked before running into trouble over his extensive gambling debts.
Ellery Adams excels at blending genres, with romance, life drama, and mystery all mixed together in her books. She particularly does this well in her highly acclaimed Books by the Bay series. The Hope Street Church Mystery series, written early in Adams’s career but revised later, involves a lot about the personal lives of the characters, especially the developing romantic relationship between Cooper and Nathan. However, The Root of All Evil spends much more time with the personal lives of the characters than the previous books in the series. Cooper shows her disappointment in the state of her relationship with Nathan. Cooper desires more and more to marry Nathan and have a family, but Nathan seems perfectly happy with the status quo. With a new police officer coming on strongly to Cooper, she feels even more confusion over her romantic life. A significant portion of the book is devoted to issues of this relationship.Another major element that the book focuses on is the high-risk pregnancy of Ashley, Cooper’s little sister. As Ashley’s due date nears, she experiences complications with her pregnancy, forcing her to keep to bed-rest, which makes her petulant and miserable.
Though I appreciated the blending of genres found in the Books by the Bay series, I did not think this book did as successful a job at this as previous books. This is part of a mystery series, yet the mystery did not take up significant space in the book. I also thought the book contained more personal contemplation on Cooper’s personal life than was necessary.
Cris Dukeheart performs the audio version of this book and does an enjoyable job, especially with the accents of the characters.
Despite my concerns over the smaller amount of the mystery, I still enjoyed the plot, which had some surprises in its twists. The book was an enjoyable read in all, so I give it four stars.