Book Review Thursday: Fatal Brushstroke by Sybil Johnson

It’s Book Review Thursday. Come back each week to get a peek inside what authors I love and what storylines inspire me. 

FATAL BRUSHSTROKE front under 2mbRory Anderson didn’t expect the furious barking coming from her backyard to turn her life upside down. But that’s exactly what happens when she goes outside and discovers a hand buried in her garden. That hand is attached to the body of Hester Bouquet, a local celebrity painter, and someone Rory had been avoiding. Did her suddenly missing gardener, Javier, bury Hester in Rory’s garden and leave town?

It doesn’t help Rory’s plea of innocence when she intentionally leaves out a few things when she first meets Detective Green. They aren’t that important, are they? She notices him talking to her neighbors, who all start to look at her suspiciously. And the fact that Chief Marshall has a personal vendetta against her doesn’t help her case at all.

With the help of her friend, Liz, Rory starts poking around in Hester’s life. The logical suspects appear to be the not-so-grieving widower, Julian, who seems to be a wee bit too close to another woman, Trudy, and their son, Kevin, who seems to resent his mother for some reason. Rory feels sorry for Julian’s assistant, Nora, who was very close to Hester and seemed to worship the very ground Hester walked on.

A nosy wannabe reporter,Veronica, starts stalking Rory, posting stories and pictures on her blog that make it clear (without actually printing her name) that Rory is the one and only suspect. And at Hester’s funeral, a close encounter with Chief Marshall reinforces this belief, making Rory more determined than ever to clear her name.

After inventorying Hester’s art supplies the day after the funeral, Rory becomes distracted when someone breaks into her mother’s art store, and her mother is attacked. As she cleans up the mess, Rory discovers a damning piece of evidence that she believes is going to lead her straight to the killer. But after she confronts Trudy with what she has found, she is shocked when she finds Trudy dead the next morning. Even worse, Detective Green discovers Trudy’s cell phone and a near empty pill bottle in Rory’s back seat that makes her look very, very guilty.

Undeterred, Rory and Liz keep digging into the history of all the players involved, until an innocent moment helps Rory realize who the real killer is. Can Rory and Liz trap the killer, before the killer can turn the tables and send Rory to the great beyond in a blaze of glory?

Fatal Brushstroke is a good book, and on a scale of one to five, I would give it a four. I felt that Ms. Johnson was trying too hard at the beginning to make Rory look guilty as sin, and I got a bit tired of her withholding information from Detective Green. I understand Rory’s reluctance to trust the young detective because of Chief Marshall’s influence, but it bothered me that Rory kept saying she was innocent, but didn’t do much to prove it in the eyes of the law. As a writer, I do the same thing sometimes with my characters, but I felt this was a bit extreme. Once I figured out who the killer was, I did read it to the end to make sure I was correct (I was). Things did start to pick up from about the middle of the book to the end. Overall, it is a very good mystery, and I am invested in the characters enough that I am looking forward to the next Rory mystery. I wish I was talented enough in the art department to try some of the things Ms. Johnson describes in the book, because they sound like fun projects. Well done, Ms. Johnson!

Fatal Brushstroke is available on Amazonand through IndieBound.

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