Book Reviews

Dust to Dust by Audrey Keown

For starters, a tremendous thanks to Audrey Keown and Crooked Lane Books for my copy of Dust to Dust. It’s always so exciting to be on a launch team for a new book and share my thoughts and feelings about it. Audrey has called her team “Bellhops” to tie in with the hotel theme. How cute is that?!

The Story

The opulent furnishings and period theming of Hotel 1911 invite guests to experience the charm of the early 20th century. But for hotel clerk Ivy Nichols, the mansion also harbors secrets about her past and the family she never knew. When the Pittsburgh chapter of the Association for Gravestone Studies checks in for their national conference, Ivy is intrigued to learn that one of them has connections to her family.

The group plans to kick off their event by touring the historic graves thought to be on the hotel grounds. But they didn’t plan to find one of their fellow members strangled to death afterwards. The police point the finger at the hotel’s loyal manager, Mr. Fig, since no one else could have reached the victim’s room. Ivy has other ideas. She believes Mr. Fig is innocent, and desperately wants to prove it. The inexplicable appearance of strange drawings, an old book, and a wig lead Ivy to a bizarre connection between the grave-obsessed guests and the murder. And when Mr. Fig confesses a long-held secret, Ivy fears she has put herself in the sights of not only the murderer but another dangerous criminal too. Who else had the opportunity to commit the crime? And is Mr. Fig all he seems to be?

Amidst a growing list of suspects with secrets of their own, and an unraveling riddle from her past, Ivy is in a race to catch a killer–and decipher a truth more earth-shattering than she could have imagined.

My Thoughts

I was much more impressed with Dust to Dust than I was with Murder at Hotel 1911. Unfortunately, the first book left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth with unlikable characters and a “reach” as far as a solution.

Ivy was much more likeable in this novel. I had fewer concerns over the fact that she is 28/29 years old and sharing an apartment with her father. She seemed more driven and active in her own life, which was redeeming. However, it turns out that I had a severe misunderstanding of George. I assumed he was in his 40s, the perpetual bachelor type. Apparently they are similar ages. (At least I hope so…) It changed the dynamic of that relationship.

One of the larger detractors for me was the length of the book. The mystery wraps up (fairly well, I might add), and there was still 10% of the book left. It was a resolution to questions that no one really asked. I’m hoping that it comes into play in future Ivy Nichols books, or it would be a bit pointless.

In addition, I was put off by Ivy’s frequent diagnoses of people she doesn’t really know. Ivy has returned to school and is taking a few psychology classes. There were multiple times in the novel where she labeled someone as narcissistic or having attachment disorders. As someone who is not certified (or even finished any sort of degree), that felt icky to me. I am 100% for bringing mental health more “mainstream,” but not like this.

As for the mystery itself… Now, I have compared this kind of approach to a book to the likes of Agatha Christie. Audrey Keown is no Agatha Christie, but she has that style of “dropping clues” along the way and catching you by surprise at the end. However, I don’t feel that Keown drops the same level of clues. Thus, the solution always seems a bit out of left field. Dust to Dust had multiple twists at the end that you didn’t see coming because it wasn’t quite written well enough to help you get there.

Overall, I am enjoying the series. I believe there are additional books on the way, so I look forward to following more of Ivy’s journey!

Dust to Dust publishes August 10, 2021! Pre-order your copy now.

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