Monday, August 30, 2021

Still Life and Death (Shepherd Sisters Mysteries #3)


Still Life and Death is the third Shepherd Sisters cozy mystery/romance by Tracy Gardner. Released 10th Aug 2021 by Hallmark, it's 280 pages and is available in paperback, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately; it makes it so easy to find information with the search function. 

This is a very light cozy mystery with very strong romance elements written around a trio of sisters and a small town murder mystery. There are several disparate threads: who killed the florist who was growing out an extinct violet, what skullduggery is going on with the dance school next door, and will Sydney figure out her relationship with Finn the medical life-flight crew member or is their unstable relationship doomed?

There are a fair number of really over-the-top plot elements which found my cynical self rolling my eyes. There are also some developments which are more or less left hanging at the denouement (like the violet - unlikely scenario to say the absolute very least). Savanna (she's the one dating the world renowned cardiac surgeon) does some amateur sleuthing and could easily have gotten herself killed since she's constantly going off on her own steam and not cooperating very well with local law enforcement. The denouement and resolution were a little matchy-matchy tied up with a bow for me personally, but readers who really love HEA and HFN endings will find a lot to like here. 

The unabridged audiobook version is narrated by Karissa Vacker and has a run time of 8 hours, 25 minutes. She has a very clear and well modulated voice - but - (and it's a big but), she has one voice for all the female characters and one for all the male. It's (as far as I can tell) her own (nasal Texas twang and all), with a deeper gravelly tone. I wasn't sure I could listen to the audiobook, but I did get used to it after a half an hour or so. The sound / production quality is very high.

This would be a good choice for readers who really love HEA/HFN family style romance novels heavy on the romance. The language is squeaky clean and there's only implied (off page) consensual sexual content between adults in a stable relationship. No on-page smut at all; there are a few fairly chaste kisses. Very little blood and no gore with the murder mystery plot elements. It would make a good very light beach or coffee shop read. 

Three stars for the audiobook version, three and a half for the print version. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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