*Thank you Viv, Netgalley and HQ Digital for my free copy of ‘A Country Gift Shop Collection’*
Dead To Begin With
‘Death To Begin With’ is the start of Vivian’s Country Gift Shop Collection series, where we are introduced to the wonderful and ambitious heroine, Vicky Simmons. Vicky leaves the hustle and bustle of London to return to her hometown on the coast of Maine, Glen Cove, to be closer to her mother and open up her very own British Country Gift shop filled with all sorts of British trinkets that tourists can explore and fall in love with.
Coming back home was Vicky’s fresh start to a much more simple and slow-paced life, until she finds out that Diane, the sister of Celine (who disappeared over twenty years ago) has returned and re-opened the case to find out what happened once and for all. Not only has one of the worst cases the town has ever dealt with come back to light, but Vicky’s high school crush, Michael has also returned home after being the main suspect of his ex-girlfriend’s disappearance twenty years ago. When local Sheriff, Cash, finds out about Michael’s return, he does everything he can to prove that Michael was involved, leading Vicky to step in and unmask the real killer, so Michael’s name can officially be cleared.
I really enjoyed Viv’s introduction to the Country Gift Shop collection – all of the characters she created for this story are so lovely to read about, including two fury babies, and they all belong in such a close-knit community, making a possible murder quite shocking and most certainly devastating. Is this community not as close-knit as they make themselves out to be? Vicky is such an inspirational heroine to read about and her initiative is outstanding to the point where this town doesn’t even need the police, she’s got this completely down herself! Much to her mother’s dismay, however, she’d rather Vicky stay out of the police’s way and keep herself out of danger. The thing I love most about Viv’s murder mystery stories is that it really is impossible to guess who the suspect is, which I personally prefer, because then I am absolutely gobsmacked by the end of it. It was really fun to get in to the mind of Vicky’s whilst she was solving Celine’s case, as she tries to make sense of all the information she’s put together, however it was also very heart-breaking when the killer is unmasked and you hear their side of the story. I’m just so glad Vicky helped Celine and her family get the justice they deserved and clear a friend’s name.
Grande Prize: Murder!
After a twenty-year-old case was successfully solved with the help of our favourite heroine, Vicky Simmons, her Country Gift Shop was pouring in with customers, in the shop and online. One particular section of her shop involving cozy mysteries was proving to be extremely popular and luckily, with Vicky’s Journalism background, she managed to invite best-selling cozy crime author, Bella Brookes, to come down to the shop for a book signing, making this Vicky’s biggest opportunity to showcase to everyone how booming her business is right now. Not only is Bella going to sign her books to the public during Glen Cove’s annual One-Mile Book Market, but her and her team have also set up a scavenger hunt and the prize, a trip to London!
The whole town is an uproar of excitement because of Bella’s appearance in Glen Cove, that a member of the community, Lilian Rowland, wife to Deke Rowland and sister-in-law to Sheriff Cash Rowland, invites her and Vicky to a party she is having in her home. The party is going well, everybody is having a blast… until Lilian comes knocking on Vicky’s door the next morning announcing that she has found a dead body in her conservatory. After solving the case of Celine’s murder, Vicky promised Cash that she would stay out of his way, however, she seems to be quite a magnet for death and finds herself enthralled in a murder that could not only take down best-selling author, Bella Brookes, but also her gift shop if she doesn’t find the real killer in time.
I have to say that Grand Prize: Murder! was a real pleasure to read, especially with the main focus being on best-selling author, Bella Brookes, the bookworm inside me was loving it – it had me entranced from start to finish, again having absolutely no clue as to who the murderer could be and it was quite literally right in front of me when the reveal was made. I’d be the worst detective ever! I loved the reunion of Cash and Vicky, as they come together once again to solve another murder in Glen Cove. The love triangle between Vicky, Cash and Michael became a lot more intense in this one and honestly, I’m not too keen on Michael – he seems very all about himself, a very stubborn man and always seems to challenge Vicky about all of her business. For me, I’m team Cash through and through! I think it has a lot to do with the fact that Viv is always telling us how Cash has a head of curls under his Sheriff hat, making me fall head over heels for him, but if Vicky doesn’t want him, pass him on to me! Another thing that I loved about this mystery was the fact that in the end, the scavenger hunt murder mystery was actually the main clue in the end to solve the real murder mystery. Viv knows how to keep us on our toes!
Written into the Grave
Vicky Simmons is back with her last murder mystery of the collection! A routine that I’ve grown so fondly of has been that every morning, Vicky goes round to see her mother and then takes the two little fur babies for a walk down the beach. However, there’s a slight twist to this morning’s routine, as they are welcomed on their walk to police cars at the edge of a cliff. Vicky, being the magnet to death we all know and love, approaches the officers to find out what has happened to the man sprawled out in all sorts of funny ways on the rocks below. Now, this sounds like a simple murder of a man being pushed off the edge of a cliff, but no no no, there is a massive twist to this man’s death.
Before Vicky’s walk to the beach with Coco and Mr Pug, she had read the new instalment to her friend and co-worker’s (Marge) Seaside Secrets series. This story was very different to the others and had no connection, so Vicky immediately queried why the sudden change of theme? As her and her mother continued reading, the story was incredibly violent and gruesome from a first person’s POV. What threw Vicky off the most when she walked on to the crime scene is that, every detail of the death in the newspaper was the exact way the man on the rocks had died, word for word. The killer had mapped it all out before it had even happened and set young Trevor (the original writer of that morning’s series) up for their crime.
‘Written into the Grave’ was by far my most favourite read of the entire collection! Whilst all of the others were extremely gripping and dripping with juicy details, this one just felt different and had a lot more going for it. Not hoping to sound too much like a psychopath who gets a thrill from reading about characters getting themselves enveloped in to mystery murders and almost death, but yes, Vicky definitely came the most close to it than she ever has before, and the first time round in ‘Dead to Begin With’, she came pretty close. We didn’t only have one murder suspect this time, but two and Cash was ready to throw everyone in if he didn’t get to the bottom of it. We meet two young characters who at first are quite suspicious, but learning more of their backstory, they were completely harmful and I really loved that Viv has made them a part of the team. My love for Cash continuously grows in this story and I really really am still rooting for him to be ‘the one’ for Vicky, but I also sort of reached a newly found respect for Michael by the end with what he does to help Vicky, so at this point, I’m a little torn! I know I said I’d be the worst detective ever in the review above, but can I please tell you that I had this murder suspect down by the first five chapters!!! This one character just wasn’t settling with me and as I kept on reading, all of the other suspects just weren’t adding up, so I stuck by my accusation and I was right!
I really hope this isn’t the end of Vicky’s journey. It’s been so refreshing and run to read, that I just need to know more about her and where life takes her – but minus the murders if possible! Fingers crossed, Viv has something up her sleeve, but for now, I hope you all decide to invest in Vicky’s journey too because you won’t regret it and it’s one heck of a ride!