From My Bookshelf: PLEATING FOR MERCY

Occasionally, I crave the comfort of reading a cozy mystery … just as from time to time I want a hot-fudge sundae.

On a recent browse through the bookstore in search of comfort reading, I came across PLEATING FOR MERCY by Melissa Bourbon. Like so many of today’s American cozies, it’s part of a “themed” series, with the requisite pun title.

I’m sure you’ve noticed the plethora of “cupcake” mysteries, “scrapbooking” mysteries, “library” mysteries, “dog viewpoint” mysteries, “cat” mysteries, “herb-growing” mysteries, any number of “cooking” mysteries, “closet organization” mysteries, “antiques” mysteries, “knitting” mysteries, “home renovation” mysteries, etc. etc. etc. (The mind boggles!) Bourbon’s series is called “A Magical Dressmaking Mystery.”

Why in the world did my hand reach out to pluck this novel off the shelf? Well, I have an interest in sewing. Not in the sense of I’m-going-to-sew-my-own-clothes interest, but in sewing as a domestic art and a pleasant hobby. Personally, I sew only to piece quilts. However, the idea of reading about a couturier protatonist appealed to me. It hit several other appeal buttons: small-town setting; prodigal daughter coming home from a big city; multi-generation family life.

Bourbon–no doubt attempting to hit every possible marketing angle–also has a Texas locale, paranormal elements including a ghost, and a touch of history. (The protagonist is a descendent of Butch Cassidy.)

Conceptually, it feels like she threw in the kitchen sink along with everything else.

In reality, the book is a pleasant read. The characters are quirky, yes, but not so bizarre that you wonder, who came up with these oddballs?

Forensic details are swept mercifully to the background. The protagonist is under the pressure of finishing the bride’s dress before the wedding, while wondering whether the bride or the groom is going to be arrested for murder.

Granted, this is no hard-hitting, suspenseful murder mystery. Finding a clue in a broken jar of vintage buttons may be too simple for your tastes. But the plot is solid. There’s enough of an internal conflict in the protagonist to make her interesting. A couple of romantic subplots add more questions. While I found Bourbon’s transitions to be rather rough and the paranormal aspects annoyed me only because they always do, these were minor things that didn’t detract from my enjoyment of a quiet, easy-to-read cozy.

Even if my favorite character was the grandmother’s pet goat, I will read the next book in the series. (Title: A FITTING END)

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