Next up on my list of the most popular and recommended series that I am highlighting is Erika Chase‘s main mystery series, the Ashton Corners Book Club Mystery Series. It begins with A Killer Read, which introduces us to the main sleuth of the series, Lizzie Turner, as well as the rest of the Ashton Corners Book Club, which serve as her collective “Watson” for the rest of the series – sometimes assistants, sometimes sounding boards, almost always trying to help out in whatever way they can to solve the case, but never quite matching Lizzie’s level of involvement.
The Ashton Corners Book Club is having its very first meeting very early in the book when they are introduced by a stranger who enters the house of the host uninvited, claiming that he was having car trouble. After making a mysterious call he claimed was to a tow truck (though snippets overheard most definitely did not sound like a call for help), and making a brief and disruptive stay at the meeting, the mystery visitor is found dead in the driveway, shot to death by a pistol belonging to the host of the club, Molly.
The book club is perhaps the highlight of the first book to me, as they all serve to bring slightly different perspectives to solving the mystery. As mystery readers, all of them are adept at looking at crimes from a critical point of view. In this case, Molly, who was hosting the meeting and who technically owned the gun the victim was shot with (it was an antique that had belonged to her husband), serves primarily as the reason why Lizzie and the rest of the club need to become involved in the case, though she does do some sleuthing assistance. So does expectant single mother Stephanie, who is suspected by an overbearing police officer after reacting in a suspicious manner by potentially recognizing the victim.
Other members of the club are more proactive – former police chief Bob can clearly draw on his experience to help solve mysteries. Teenage Andie is good with computers and other modern information gathering methods like this “Internet” thing I keep hearing so much about, while lawyer Jacob could potentially be helpful in dealing with the police.
Of course, Lizzie herself is the heroine of the novel and the overall sleuth of the series – she is a literacy specialist, both serving as an adviser to local schools on helping children who are falling behind catch up with their peers (including Andie, one of the book club members), and running a literacy program to help older people who missed out on finishing high school earn their GED (including Stephanie, another member of the book club). Indeed, the book club seems almost as much a tool for Lizzie to help some of her more receptive or distant students come to love reading through a more approachable source than “classic” literature, which can often be difficult to fully appreciate if the reader isn’t in the right mindset. As with many Cozy Mystery sleuths, Lizzie is a local who left her home town but has returned after a stay away – so she has the advantage of both experience in the “big city” to draw on, and history with many of the locals she will meet in the course of her sleuthing.
Also important to this entry (and further entries in the series) is Mark, a former crush of Lizzie’s in high school and current Chief of the Ashton Corners police. (No points for guessing that Mark will end up as a romantic interest!) Mark serves as another source of information and advice for Lizzie, though one that obviously wishes she would be >>> or at least try to be >>> more discrete, as evidence starts piling up and the situation inevitably becomes more dangerous.
Overall, A Killer Read is a good introductory novel to what promises to be a strong ensemble cast. Most Cozies have one or two talented sleuths, but Erika Chase’s Ashton Corners Book Club is lucky enough to have many.
P.S. She also writes the Dinner Club Mystery Series as Linda Wiken!
If you’re interested in reading more of these brief revisits of some of the more popular Cozy Mystery Series that I’ve written in the past, you can find them at the Most Recommended Cozy Mystery Series page on my site.