Book Review (and a Giveaway!): Bowled Over Americano by Carolyn Arnold

Posted April 17, 2023 by meezcarrie in Carolyn Arnold, contemporary, cozy mystery, giveaway, mystery/suspense / 5 Comments

Sara and Sean Cozy Mystery #1

GENRE: Cozy Mystery
PUBLISHER: Hibbert & Stiles Publishing, Inc.
RELEASE DATE: April 11, 2023
PAGES: 268

Sara Cain isn’t your typical thirty-two-year-old woman. Murder detective by day, writer and… sleuth by night? Just as long as there’s enough coffee to keep her going…

When her first novel gives her trouble, Sara goes for a walk to clear her writer’s block and ends up stumbling right into a real-life murder mystery. Magnum, an adventurous beagle, comes running off leash toward her in the local park, and she returns him home only to find his master dead on the entry floor.

Cliff Cunningham was a championship bowler with a mean streak and a temper, and police are pegging his Golden Pin bowling trophy as the murder weapon. While any number of people could have clocked a strike by knocking him on the noggin, the prime suspect is a friend of Sara’s mother—and she expects Sara to prove the woman’s innocence. A tall order, as the case isn’t officially hers and belongs to a rival detective.

But a promise is a promise, and Sara soon finds herself sleuthing undercover—and off the clock—in a world of polyester shirts and rental shoes. It’s not all bad, though, as she’s taking her friend and partner Sean McKinley along for the ride. They are better together than they’ve ever been split, and they’re not amateurs at finding killers.

Despite being up against small-town hijinks and colorful characters who threaten to roll their efforts into the gutter, they are having fun. That is, until they get close to the killer and a dangerous twist puts their lives at risk.

A completely addictive caper full of twists that offers up a serving of murder, a dollop of romance, and a dash of humor. This perfect blend of robust and sweet is bound to hit the spot with readers who are fans of Verity Bright, Tonya Kappes, and Agatha Frost.

Other Books In This Series

Bowled Over Americano is a quirky mystery with two homicide detectives on the case – one of whom also happens to be a mystery writer on the side. In fact, the story begins with Sara bemoaning writer’s block, and I enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek look at how a writer’s mind works. I would have actually loved even more focus on Sara’s ‘mystery writer’ side as I felt it brought a unique flair to her character and potentially to the overall story if it had been allowed a bit more page time.

My thoughts on Bowled Over Americano is really a ‘tale of two books’, so to speak. On the one hand, I thought the mystery (really, mysteries plural) was nicely plotted with several layers, unexpected twists, and clever red herrings that all keep Sara and Sean – and readers – on their toes. While homicide detectives aren’t your typical cozy mystery sleuths (usually they’re the ones the cozy mystery sleuth is helping), they also aren’t supposed to be solving the main case they’re working on. A fact that forces them to go undercover after hours with some amusing costumes and alter egos. Not to mention that this part of the plot sets the story apart from the ‘same old, same old’ of cozies.

On the other hand, I never connected to the characters. Don’t get me wrong – I liked the characters, especially Sara and her partner Sean. But I never really felt like I was able to get in their heads and live the story through their eyes. Neither ‘felt’ like a homicide detective to me, either. Sara especially seemed too flighty or that she was just making it up as she went along, like maybe she just picked ‘homicide detective’ as a role to play until she figures out what she wants to do. We’re told what’s in their heads so much (too much), but not shown it. As a result, the character & content development fell flat for me in several ways – especially the events of the last few chapters.

Bottom Line: Bowled Over Americano by Carolyn Arnold has an adorable dog, more than one murder to solve, homicide detectives in love with each other (but unable to act on it), a few surprises, and a handful of quirky characters. I enjoyed the mystery aspect of the story, and I liked Sean and Sara as protagonists. And how could I not mention Magnum the beagle who stole every scene he was in, as any good cozy mystery pet should? I did find it difficult to get beyond a surface connection with Sean & Sara, though, or to make sense of some of their decisions. There was more telling than showing, and a lot of the telling got repetitive and bogged down the story even further. Overall, however, I thought this was a cute introduction to a promising series!

(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)

My Rating: 3.5 stars / liked it

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CAROLYN ARNOLD is an internationally bestselling and award-winning author, as well as a speaker, teacher, and inspirational mentor. She has several continuing fiction series and has many published books. Her genre diversity offers readers police procedurals, hard-boiled and cozy mysteries, thrillers, and action adventures. Her crime fiction series have been praised by those in law enforcement as being accurate and entertaining. This led to her adopting the trademark: POLICE PROCEDURALS RESPECTED BY LAW ENFORCEMENT™.

Carolyn was born in a small town and enjoys spending time outdoors, but she also loves the lights of a big city. Grounded by her roots and lifted by her dreams, her overactive imagination insists that she tell her stories. Her intention is to touch the hearts of millions with her books, to entertain, inspire, and empower.

She currently lives near London, Ontario, Canada with her husband and two beagles.

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