Jillian Bradley and her four friends, Nicole, Dominique, Ann, and Jillian’s cute little dog, Teddy are excited about the nice relaxing time they’ll be spending at Half Moon Bay for a garden society conference. Since Jillian writes a column about gardening called “Ask Jillian” she’s sure she’ll learn a lot of interesting facts that she’ll be able to share with her readers. Little did she know that she’d be learning more about murder investigations than gardening.
Almost as soon as she checks into the hotel she gets involved with things that have nothing to do with flowers. Walter Montoya, a bellboy, asks if she could speak to his father. His father loves Jillian’s column so she decides that she’ll go to the nursery business where Mr. Montoya works to meet him. But he has a problem that has nothing to do with gardens or flowers. He does the books for the shop and has discovered that someone is stealing money. This has been going on for a while and Mr. Montoya hasn’t told the shop’s owners and now he’s afraid the owners will fire him thinking he took the money. Jillian agrees to help find out who the real thief is.
She returns to the hotel and meets all the other attendees including Spencer Hausman, who set up the conference and his assistant, Regina Anatolia. Regina confides in Jillian that she plans on quitting her job because she and Spencer don’t get along. But before she can quit Regina is murdered and of course it’s Jillian who finds the body.
Police Chief Frank Viscuglia is called in to investigate and the first person he speaks with is Jillian. She persuades the chief to allow her to investigate the murder with him and to sit in on all the interviews. Not only does she sit in on the interviews but she starts her own investigation asking all the suspects questions. Jillian also gets her friends to help investigate along with her.
Everyone at the conference is rather surprised that Jillian is suddenly some kind of police detective but they’re shocked when they find out that Spencer Hausman is soon found murdered as well and guess who found Spencer’s body? Yep, Jillian. Now she’s investigating two murders and wondering if the theft from the nursery business is related to the dead bodies.
“Murder In Half Moon Bay” by Nancy Jill Thames is the first in the Jillian Bradley cozy series. I hate to say this but I think that maybe Ms. Thames should end the series right here.
First of all, for a book with only 178 pages it took me a long time to get through it. It was boring at times because the author kept repeating what the readers already knew. And then to prolong the torture Jillian would write out lists of what she’s learned about the murders so the facts are being repeated yet again.
I’ve been reading cozies for more years than I’d like to admit and know that there’s a certain amount of “swallowing” that needs to be done. Yes, all cozies have the main character helping to solve the murders when their main occupation is really a baker, a coffee shop owner, or a garden column writer but this book goes a step too far.
Why is Jillian so involved here? It isn’t as if she or one of her friends have been arrested for the murders. And why did Mr. Montoya ask her to help figure out who was stealing money from the nursery business? Because she writes a column about flowers? Did I miss something here?
In other cozies the police detectives at least tries to get the protagonists not to investigate even though all cozy readers know that’s not going to happen but there is some kind of semblance of police procedure. But in “Murder In Half Moon By” the police chief just allows Jillian to start her own investigation into the murders? Why? Because he’s short staffed and can’t find any clues? Is that a reason to allow a gardening column writer to take over the investigation? This was way too much for me to just shrug off. The whole thing made me resent Jillian and all the other characters in the book except for Teddy the dog.
Yes, the murder is solved, everything was explained but it wasn’t worth the torture trying to get through this relatively short book.
“Murder In Half Moon Bay” is Nancy Jill Thames’ first cozy and she definitely has some potential to write a good one. Her writing talent is apparent but she can’t assume that her readers will shrug off reality as much as she expects us to. I can’t really recommend a book where the plot is so questionable and the only tolerable character is a dog.