Lucy Arlington, Buried in a Book

Posted June 30, 2012 by Kathy Davie in

Buried in a BookBuried in a Book by Lucy Arlington
Series: A Novel Idea Mystery, 1
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

First in A Novel Idea mystery series revolving around Lila Wilkins, a new book agent in a charming little town in North Carolina.

My Take
This book is a dichotomy of writing. Arlington chooses the most beautiful words to mangle with her writing. You will enjoy the story very much if you don’t pay much attention to what’s being said. If you engage your mind at all in reading this, you will find that Arlington has created a weak-assed, drama queen of a primary character in Lila Wilkins.

She whines and moans about her son’s habits and I don’t see that she’s ever exercised any discipline. I can’t believe she intends to fully finance Trey’s college attendance. She whines and moans about her embarrassing mother, although she does come to realize what a marvel her mother is. She’s so overly dramatic in her new position. I swear, the woman does not live in the real world. So she lost her job and her son is responsible for quite a bit of damage—why aren’t the other kids who were involved responsible for any of it?? Why does this necessitate her selling her home? Instead of giving us realistic reasons, Arlington simply leaps to this as an excuse for her to move into her mother’s house.

Then there’s all the leaping—all this activity should wear off all the danishes and scones she’s eating at Espresso Yourself!—Lila does at her new job. She gets an idea in her head and immediately decides it’s true. Sure she has some theories and not enough facts, but, dah-dah-dahhh, does this hold back our intrepid investigator? Hell, no! Why wait to confirm anything or even SIMPLY inform Sean of her THOUGHTS when she can leap in and make accusations. It brings up the negative actions so much faster and dramatically. As for the ramifications of inaccurate accusations…well, Arlington just ignores them. That would take work to smooth over. Arlington attempts to create more drama by having Lila—the same Lila so concerned about doing well at her job—neglect her duties to investigate the murder. And, yes, I realize I’m being somewhat unfair…it’s an indication of how much Arlington’s manipulations irritate me!

It’s as though Arlington is connecting the dots in her outline without fleshing anything out. Well, it would require some effort and thought…don’t want to do any leaping there!

And, no, I’m not confusing a healthy fantasy life with Lila’s stupidity. And that’s not fair. It’s really Arlington’s laziness that I’m bemoaning. She has a lovely concept with great characters living in a lovely village. There are engaging interactions amongst the main and secondary characters which I would enjoy continuing, but I simply cannot accept Arlington’s theatrics as she ignores all common sense.

On the plus side, Lila is a fairly typical person with her dreams and how she interacts with her son and mother. She is a decent person and I like her concern about solving Marlette’s death. I am enjoying the subplot of Trey’s involvement with the co-op. I enjoyed Arlington’s insertions and quotes from other authors. A bit show-offy, but that’s my prejudice showing.

It’s just overboard. Arlington goes overboard on everything. Like she can’t bear to let an opportunity go by without showing off her word mastery—I expect she’ll come out with a series in which cooking is a primary part of the plot. (I think Arlington is channeling a bit of Diane Mott Davidson.) And she is quite good with choosing words. Admittedly, part of my pickiness could well be coming from my annoyance with her excessiveness.

I did enjoy the actual job that Lila performed when she could get around to it. It was fascinating to read of the many trashed queries with the occasional possibility. Exciting, actually.

The Story
It’s Lila’s first day at her new job when murder is served up. And it’s Lila’s compassion which sets her off on the trail of who could have murdered such a nice-seeming man…however, smelly he was. When Lila learns that Marlette had been visiting Novel Idea every day with a bouquet and a query letter, the first glimmering of a motive occurs to her. Query letters generally indicate the existence of a manuscript.

An unexpected dinner with the residents of the Red Mountain Co-op creates several opportunities for the Wilkinses: Trey to explore a cooperative life with the beguiling Iris and Lila discovers a great deal about Marlette’s history.

A history that will lead to more murder and a nefarious plot by unscrupulous people.

The Characters
Lila Wilkins has just been laid off from her twenty-year job at the local paper in Dunston, but immediately finds a new position as an intern with a nearby agency of book agents, the Novel Idea Literary Agency—I do love the name!. Trey Wilkins is her college-bound son with the lousy work ethic—can’t imagine how that was allowed to develop. The Amazing Althea is Lila’s mom and she reads tarot cards for a faithful clientele between baking loaves of chocolate-banana bread.

Ms. Bentley Burlington-Duke owns the Novel Idea Literary Agency and seems rather formidable. She employs Flora Meriweather who deals in children’s books with a Tasha Tudor-ish office; Zach Attack, a.k.a., Mr. Hollywood, specializes in dramatic entrances, represents sports writers, and gets screenplays up on movie screens; the sensually bodacious Luella Ardor handles romances and erotica; the grandfatherly Franklin Stafford stands for nonfiction and is hiding a hot secret; and, the gorgeous Jude Hudson represents thrillers and suspense.

Makayla is the barista at Espresso YourselfI get the impression she owns the place. She’s a very welcoming lady with a love for books and soon becomes friends with Lila. Big Ed runs Catcher in the Rye, a sandwich shop, where, instead of a number, he gives you a literary character. Addison Eckhart was the lastest intern who quit Novel Idea and now works at the Secret Garden—notice all the literary references in this?

We meet Officer Sean Griffiths the first time over the death at Novel Idea and he quickly insinuates himself into Lila’s life.

Marlette Robbins is a homeless man who haunts the agency with floral bouquets and query letters. Carson Knight is the latest client and he has a potential blockbuster of a book. Sue Ann Grey is a nasty piece of work from Marlette’s past.

Jasper is the leader of the Red Fox Mountain Co-op. The fairy-like Iris is Jasper’s sister and part of the enticement for Trey.

The Cover
The cover depicts the High Street in Inspiration Valley. For pedestrians only, it’s cobbled with a fountain in the center and lined with lovely buildings, a mountain rising up in the background. Just the place for a lovely life.

My guess is that the title refers to how Lila envisions spending her work days, Buried in a Book.

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