CRIME AND PARCHMENT by Daphne Silver
SERIES: A Rare Books Cozy Mystery #1
GENRE: Cozy Mystery (Clean)
PUBLISHER: Level Best Books
RELEASE DATE: November 21, 2023
Rare books librarian Juniper Blume knows this much… an ancient Celtic manuscript shouldn’t be in a Maryland cemetery. But that’s exactly what her brother-in-law claims.
Last year, Juniper saw the 1,200-year-old Book of Kells in Ireland. She learned how their bejeweled covers were stolen centuries ago, never to be seen again. So how could they have ended up in Rose Mallow, a small Chesapeake Bay town? Being Jewish, the Book of Kells might not be her sacred text, but as a rare books librarian, the ancient book is still sacred to her, making it important to Juniper to find out the truth.
Rose Mallow is the same place where Juniper used to summer with her sister Azalea and their grandmother Zinnia, known as Nana Z. Ever since Nana Z passed away, Juniper’s avoided returning, but her curiosity is greater than her grief, so she heads down in her vintage convertible with her rescue dog Clover.
Juniper discovers that her sister Azalea has transformed their grandmother’s Queen Anne style mansion into the Wildflower Inn, backing up to the Chesapeake Bay. Although Juniper isn’t much of a cook, Azalea has kept their grandmother’s legacy alive, filling the house with the smells of East European Jewish treats, like sweet kugels and tzimmes cake. Will coming back here feel like returning home or fill Juniper with a deeper sorrow? Can she apologize to her sister for not being there when she was needed most?
I’m a sucker for a mystery or adventure novel involving a missing/legendary historical artifact, and when that artifact is book-related? Even better. So of course Crime and Parchment drew my attention with its premise involving the Book of Kells and its missing, bejeweled ‘cover’. The theory in this book is of course fictional (and ultimately unlikely), but I loved how plausibly the author set it up nonetheless. Plus, it made a great subplot and potential motive for the murder and missing person investigations that Juniper becomes entangled in during the novel.
Juniper is a relatable character in many ways, but unique enough that she’s not exactly the ‘same old, same old’ cozy mystery protagonist. I loved that she works with rare books – and at the Library of Congress no less! In this first installment, it only plays a minor role, that of getting her back to Rose Mallow, but I’m eager to explore more of her work with historical documents and rare books as the series progresses. Her sister Azalea is likable as well, and the complicated dynamics between them add layers and tension to the plot. The bottom line, though, is that they love each other deeply, and it’s always refreshing to see that among family characters in a series.
The supporting characters, including Juniper’s dog Clover and Azalea’s little girl Violet (as well as various members of law enforcement, people of Rose Mallow, a TV crew, Azalea’s tech-savvy employee Keisha, and a couple of romantic prospects for the sisters) serve to advance the story and pepper the mystery with suspects and motives. As far as the mystery itself, it is full of plenty of twists and turns that kept taking me by surprise. The ultimate identity of the culprit wasn’t on my radar at all, which is very unusual for me, and is only slightly more obvious to me in hindsight. Needless to say, I found it very well-plotted, and I was invested in it from beginning to end.
Bottom Line: Crime and Parchment by Daphne Silver combines several of my fave elements to find in fiction – books, missing/legendary artifacts, layered mysteries, hints of potential romance, and likable characters. Silver’s writing voice is engaging, and her placement of the clues and red herrings is well-executed. Several things happen in this first book that will no doubt develop further as the series continues, and I’m looking forward to seeing exactly how they do so. A fun and complex cozy mystery, as well as a compelling start to a new series!
(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)
My Rating: 4 stars / enjoyed it!
Daphne Silver is the author of the Rare Books Cozy Mystery series. She’s worked more than twenty years in museums and has the great fortune of being married to a librarian. When she’s not writing, she’s drawing and painting. She lives in Maryland with her family. Although she’s not much of a baker, she won’t ever turn down a sweet lokshen kugel. Connect with Daphne at her website.
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