Cat Latimer is about to start her fourth writer’s retreat, held one week each month, in Aspen Hills, Colorado in the Victorian home she inherited from Michael, her ex-husband, in Of Murder and Men by Lynn Cahoon. But Shauna, her best friend and partner in the retreat, has been gone as Cat prepares things, instead spending all her time with Kevin, the boyfriend whom Cat and other friends of Shauna think not worthy of the woman. The friend’s lapses in behavior show up all the more when Cat’s Uncle Pete, chief of police of Aspen Hills, arrives at the home because Shirley, a retired police detective, is due to arrive for the retreat from Alaska a day early in order to get a chance to meet with him about life as police chief in a small college town, where her police procedural she is writing is set. Cat gets everything ready for the guest on her own when Shauna walks in and surprises everyone by showing off an expensive, fancy diamond ring. Kevin has proposed. But the next night, just as Shauna accepts his proposal, Kevin appears to backtrack on his proposal but wants her to return the next night to celebrate anyway. Since Shauna cooks the breakfasts the retreat is famous for, Cat gets annoyed when Shauna fails to appear for the group’s first breakfast, but when Shauna finally does show up, the latter is clearly upset, saying that Kevin felt sick during the night and got up out of bed. This was the last that Shauna saw of her fiance, who has now disappeared. Having called upon Uncle Pete for help, Shauna and Cat are alarmed to see the police chief enter with a grim face. Kevin has been murdered.
The book follows two investigations, as Shirley takes a genuine interest in helping Cat get to the bottom of Cat’s ex-husband’s murder, a thread followed through the first two books in the series. Further, the people of Aspen Hills get caught up in investigating the death of Kevin, who held a real estate empire. Kevin’s chief assistant holds a particular vested interest because, at least in the version of the story Kevin once told Shauna, Kevin had a one-night-stand with Jade, Paul’s sister, that produced twin boys who are almost now grown up.
Of Murder and Men has a really strong plot, with many fascinating threads of investigation into both murders, but especially Michael’s. Cat feels she must get to the truth in order to put his memory and the pain of their divorce to rest. She previously discovered that Michael, a brilliant economist at the university, drove her away by staging a scene with another woman because he found himself in trouble for discovering something bad about a company he had been hired to consult for. So he feared that Cat might also be in danger and didn’t trust her enough to tell her the truth. Shirley steps in as a strong secondary character to give extra assistance in the search for the truth. Both Cat and Shauna seek the truth for their respective tragedies, actions that propel this book’s plot strongly and ably.
Besides a strong plot, we enjoy strong characters in this year, especially women. Cat and Shauna, along with Shirley, present women of unique individuality who serve as examples to women of later generations, such as the young former book seller who visits the retreat to explain the business side of the publishing world. This young woman had a baby as a teenager but used determination to work her way up and has gotten a major publisher to put her through college and then hire her at a six-figure income. Shirley, who has had her law enforcement career, cheers this woman on as an example of the newest generation of feminists. The male characters, in particular Uncle Pete and Seth, Cat’s high school boyfriend whom she is dating again, but also secondary characters such as Paul and the mob character who periodically pops in on Cat unannounced to her displeasure are believable characters written very well.
Another feature of this book that I really found interesting is the discussion of the publishing process and extreme difficulty of getting a book picked up by a publisher. It shows how writing the book is often the easy part; it is getting someone to agree to publish it that is the harder part. The only detail that I wish the book had taken into account is the alternate world of self-publishing. With this book’s having been published at the end of 2017, it should have considered the option of self-publishing in talking about the whole process.
C.S.E. Cooney performs the audio version of this book. I was unsure about her narration in the first book, A Story to Kill, but she has grown on me. I am coming to appreciate her inflections and voices, as well as the way she brings the book to life.
I really appreciated listening to Of Murder and Men. The book has so much depth and weaves together so many threads into a brilliant tapestry. It contains a powerful plot, cleverly developed characters, and depth that blend together to become a strong, unified whole. I give this book five stars.
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