In Pick Your Poison by Leann Sweeney, Abby lives with her twin sister Kate in the wealthy home left to them by their recently deceased father. The morning of the book’s opening, the gardener, Ben, tells Abby that he needs to talk to her and Kate once Kate gets home from her time at school, where she is finishing up her PhD. But before Kate returns home, Abby’s lazy dog starts barking like crazy, leading her to the greenhouse, where she finds Ben lying dead of a horrific form of acid and cyanide poisoning.
Learning that Ben has been living under an assumed name after having been suspected of the murder of his first wife, Abby feels drawn to find the truth about Ben’s life, to the opposition of those in her own life. She soon learns that though the sheriff of Ben’s town suspects him of having killed his first wife, Cloris, with cyanide, he has never found any evidence of Ben’s guilt or even charged him with a crime. Ben’s second wife tells Abby that Ben has been on a mission to find the truth about Cloris, leading Abby to wonder if the two murders could be related, but also curious why Ben has been living at her home as the gardener.
The case takes a turn into dealing with issues of adoption, in particular buying and selling babies. This becomes especially personal to Abby, as she and her twin sister Kate were adopted at six weeks of age when their biological parents were killed in a plane crash, leading to personal challenges as well as investigative ones.
The book has clever details in its writing style. I really enjoyed the creative similes and other sayings in the text. Here is just one such quip: “I felt like a parakeet that got caught in a badminton game.”
I liked the choice to have Abby narrate the book, as she comes across as immature in some ways and proficient not just with computers but with certain details of her research. We see her grow in her abilities and in her connection to others in her lives. This especially comes true when she learns to relate to her ex-husband without falling back into the same traps that he used to suck her in during their awful marriage. I did feel that most of the other characters did not have the depth that we see in Abby. However, I did not like the way that Abby is so certain that she and she alone can solve this murder and goes out numerous times to confront suspects, even against the orders of the police detective in charge of her case. She cannot seem to believe that the detective actually knows anything about the case. I don’t like such arrogance.
When I compare this book to the Cats in Trouble Mystery series, also written by Leann Sweeney, it contains plenty of sparkle and energy, but not as much depth as the cat books I’ve read. I also had a little trouble following how Abby was able to make certain crucial connections in solving the case.
I enjoyed the audio performance of Danielle Ferland. The narrator does a good job of portraying Abby and her depictions of the others in her world. I did have a couple minor issues with the audio. For one thing, Hans, Aunt Caroline’s boy toy, comes across unbelievably. He is described as being a contestant in a Schwarzenegger look alike contest and has a strange accent, though fortunately he has only a couple lines. The other thing I’d like to see changed is for the Audible version to change the format so that each chapter of the book is a separate chapter in the Audible edition instead of making each Audible chapter cover several book chapters. Otherwise, I had fun with the performance given by Ferland.
Pick Your Poison has a dramatic denouement that really kept me tied to the book. In the midst of a flash flood, Abby confronts the killer and has to fight for her life. Despite my reservations about the stock characters and Abby’s refusal to believe the police can do their job, I still really enjoyed listening to this book. I give it four stars.
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