Laughed 'Til He Died: A Death On Demand Mystery
I do like a good mystery, though I normally tend to go for either an author I know, a series I know, or a “world” I know. Since the author and locale of Laughed ‘Til He Died were both completely new to me, the fact that this book held my interest, and had me doing some late-night page-turning to see how it all turned out, speaks well for it.
A South Carolinian island is the location for this latest installment in the Death Walked In series. It’s a sleepy town where everyone knows everyone else. Unlike Cabot Cove, Jessica Fletcher’s TV domain, however, the mystery writer who pops up to help out now and again in this book has a minor role, playing fourth or fifth fiddle to a likable amateur crime-solving couple and the town police. In Laughed ‘Til He Died, the plot focuses on a community center, a philandering bigwig, and half a book’s worth of potential suspects. Characters were slow to stick in my head, and were introduced more quickly than I normally like, but by the end of the book they were well fleshed out and memorable, all of them making consistent, believable choices.
A couple of characters jumped in and out of the story a bit haphazardly for me, but I could tell they’d been established in previous books in the series, though Hart neatly avoids that tired old identical exposition chapter at the start of nearly every other book series.
Slightly jarring choice: there were titles of other mysteries name-dropped throughout the book. I know this series is set in a mystery bookshop, but I felt like... the only way I can describe it is that I felt like the author was evangelizing. It didn’t sit well with me, and I’m a devout Agatha Christie fan.
Otherwise, though, this is a well-crafted addition to the genre.