Death on Windmill Way – Carrie Doyle

Signs I will hate the [insert book genre here:] fantasy historical novel cozy mystery you have written:

(1) The point of view you have used is that of your main character, and your main character is:
a. Not terribly bright.
Antonia, main character of this novel, seems to have spent the last year or so of her life flinging money around like a crazed flowergirl tossing rose petals all over the congregation at a wedding. And then, because she has paid little to no attention to such matters, is shocked – SHOCKED, I say – when someone points out to her that, really, money is a rather finite thing when income is as limited as theirs is, and maybe she should stop spending quite so freely – and maybe shouldn’t have ordered furniture shipped over from England and so forth. Shocked, I tell you. Also, someone makes an actual effort to kill her, and she … just … decides to decide that “It had just been a fluke”.

b. Disgustingly judgmental.
Antonia instantly assesses the physical appearance of everyone she meeets. Reactions tend to be about 45% “oh he/she’s ever so attractive until looked at more closely but then she/he’s just average” and 45% outright contemptful “bleh”, with the other 10% swooning and all-but-literally drooling adoration for a celebrity. For example, the incredibly ugly personality bound up in the reporter who gloms onto her is enclosed in an almost-attractive personage, but he’s ridiculously short, therefore can’t be attractive at all. (I’m five feet tall. This did not sit well with me.) Now, granted, of course everyone makes such assessments of other people – but even with my low opinion of humanity I cling to hope that most people aren’t this ugly in their internal monologue. Typical example of character description: “She had the husky voice of a smoker and the yellow stained teeth to confirm it. The green apron fit snugly over her Easter egg blue sweater and her low-hanging ample breasts were making an effort to burst out of the front but instead were flopping out to the sides. She had on gold dangling earrings that softened her somewhat harsh, bird-like features.” Is that level of nastiness necessary?

c. Under the impression (s)he is a better detective than the detectives.
“I remember you used to be obsessed with your ex-husband’s cases. You were more of a detective than he was.”
“I was better at it than he was.”

d. Ridiculously vain over her appearance
She complacently notes that she doesn’t have a single gray hair, and hopes she never will have. By that point, I was hoping much the same thing – because the only way you’re going to naturally avoid gray hairs is to die young, and I was ready to kill her myself.

e. Surrounded by characters I came quickly to loathe almost as much as your main character.
This does not make for a pleasant reading experience.

(2) You apparently came across some facts in your research that you just have to regurgitate into your text, whether they make sense or not. After all, with these bits shoehorned in there, you can feel like you’ve done a public service. Or something.
I did not make note of how long the diatribe on bees went on. It was several pages, however, and for some unknown reason included ancient Egypt and multitudinous statistics.

a. However, all the research you did failed to make your writing accurate or entirely coherent.
– Bees’ nests and hives are not the same thing.
– And this makes no sense: “Throughout much of the nineteenth century the Windmill Inn had housed a tannery in the barn out back; guests stayed in the main building while their saddles were treated.” How can someone attempt to write a book in which a tannery is brought up without knowing that a tannery stank to high heaven, and any guest staying at an inn adjacent to a tannery would have most probably been those unable to afford better?
– “I have a garden out back. I love wild flowers.” – If they’re in a garden, does that not mean they’re not actually wildflowers?
– “But I was his common-law wife for five years.” No, you weren’t. Common law marriage is not recognized in the state of New York – in fact, it’s only recognized in a handful of states. So living with someone for five years – or fifteen, or eighty-two – just means you’ve lived with someone for that many years. You’re either married or you’re not. It took me less than five minutes to learn this.

(3). There are holes in your plot that could hold a spacious and overly expensive Hamptons inn.
– The owner of the inn in question prior to the piece of work that is Antonia died. Official cause of death: heart failure. Someone at some point mentions that there was swelling on the man’s face that looked like (not was, mind: looked like) a beesting; was he allergic? Antonia takes this as a statement instead of a question and goes haring off in all directions a. spreading the unfounded rumor that the man was murdered by beesting (in December) and b. that he was allergic enough to bee venom that it would kill him. At no point does anyone ever actually say “Yes, this man was definitely highly allergic to beestings and being stung would cause his death” –that “common-law wife”, the man’s sister, and a woman who worked with for many years apparently knew nothing of any such allergy … and yet Antonia takes it as a given, and a highly unlikely and unusual method of murder. “You did know he was allergic to bees, didn’t you?” But – – – seriously, was he?? And – really? Based on absolutely nothing the so-brilliant Main Character actually is suggesting exhumation of the body??

(4) Your editor sucks, and your writing badly needs a good editor.
a. This is kind of self-evident – no examples needed.
– But because I made notes of them I’ll give examples of bad writing anyway. “Maybe she just snapped one day with Gordon.” The character Gordon’s murder was not a “snappy” kind of murder – it was something that took planning and forethought. If someone “just snapped” they might have strangled or stabbed or shot the guy, but probably would not have located a bee, plotted out some way of conveying said bee to the victim’s person in such a way that it would sting him, and watched while he asphyxiated.
– “She swallowed gently as if reluctant to release the sandwich from her tastebuds to her stomach.” I’m not even starting on that. It’s a terrible sentence in every possible way except actual grammar – I think it’s technically correct. I’m just kind of afraid to go back and examine it.
– “It would make sense that he was after booze, thought Antonia. Didn’t he work at a liquor store?” Why would someone who worked at a liquor store be “after booze” someplace else?
– That’s not what “impart” means.
– “I didn’t set out to have a beehive, it just sort of happened. I kind of inherited it. And they make the most delicious honey in the world!” This is a) asinine, and b) who or what are “they”? There is no plural anything in prior sentences
– Main character orders – in her own inn – a breakfast with “all the bells and whistles”. And then hopes that the server knows what she meant. And then is content with what is brought – which, apparently, was tea and mini muffins. Given the absurd level of description in the book I would think I’d have been informed of every crumb on the tray, but no: mini muffins. That doesn’t sound very bell-and-whistle to me. It’s not even just whistle.

(5) You have littered the ground with suspects when there may not have even been any murders. Now, yes, it is accepted practice to obfuscate a killer’s identity behind a cloud of other possibilities, but this is just ridiculous.
a. “They found arsenic in the cake, which Charmaine swore must have gotten in there by accident. She had picked some thyme from the garden to add to the cake and must have mistakenly included it, she claimed.” – How could thyme a) mistakenly find its way into a cake, or b) be responsible for any quantity of arsenic?

(6) The book seems to be heavily padded.
– At one point I made a note: “oh my sweet god she ate crackers put away groceries watered a plant touched up makeup and put on lotion HELP ME”. If any of the puttering that went on in several pages worth of wasted time ever became relevant, it was after I quit. Wait – the puttering, which also included long contemplation of a mysterious box she had been given along with a lengthy examination of said plant and whether she had killed it or not, did serve a purpose: it made her much too … busy to open this mysterious box before she decided she was needed in the kitchen. And so the box went unopened. For no legitimate reason.
– See above: bees.
– Am I supposed to really care that the main character loves her Uggs and that the fabric on her chair came from a company called Quadrille of which I’ve never heard?

(7) Having a pretty cover will only make it worse that the book is bad.This has a very pretty cover. But it’s a really rather bad book.

The usual disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley for review.

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