Series Name:
Miranda Abbott Mystery, #1

Review By Gabrielle

The Ferguson brothers are off to a good start in their new mystery series with I Only Read Murder.

Favourite Quote:

“She walked along the harbor in the sunlight, dragging her rattling valise behind her, past the expansive lawn of the hotel, looking for lanes leading uphill. Everyone moved slower out here, more leisurely, as though time were less pressing. It was a watercolor come to life. A doily of a town, with marigolds and flowering begonias spilling out of streetlamp baskets. Happy Rock hadn’t been built; it had been crocheted into existence. Miranda was sure of that.”

Goodreads Synopsis: 

Miranda Abbott, once known for the crime-solving, karate-chopping church pastor she played on network television, has hit hard times. Turned down for a role on a cable reality show, Miranda is facing ruin when a mysterious postcard arrives, summoning her to Happy Rock, a small town in the Pacific Northwest. But when she gets there, nothing is what she expected.

In dire straits, Miranda signs up for an amateur production at the Happy Rock Little Theater, competing against the local real estate agent for the lead role. In front of a packed house, one of the actors is murdered, live, onstage. But out of one hundred witnesses, no one actually saw what happened. Now everyone is under a cloud of suspicion, including the sardonic town doctor, the local high school drama teacher, an oil-stained car mechanic, an older gentleman who may or may not have been in the CIA—and Miranda herself. Clearly, the only way to solve this mystery is for Miranda to summon her skills as television’s Pastor Fran and draw on the help of her new sidekick, Susan, a shy bookstore clerk who seems to know everyone’s secrets. Because the show must go on!

I am a huge Will Ferguson fan. I had the absolute pleasure of sitting down and interviewing him a couple years ago for an author event, which only served to reinforce my enthusiasm. He is a delight. And so when I found out he was writing a new mystery series with his brother Ian, I had to give it a go.

This isn’t a pulse-pounding thriller. It’s quirky and funny and has a sort of bumbling pace that suits the story and the characters. Not quite a cozy, but on its way there, fans of Richard Osman and Alexander McCall Smith will enjoy this.

At first I didn’t love Miranda as the main character, but I think that is the point. She is an over-the-top prima donna that has little grasp on reality. She sort of floats through life unconcerned with the consequences of her decisions and actions. She doesn’t even notice her impact on others around her. She is overly dramatic and very nearly a caricature of a Hollywood has-been. But little by little she grows on you throughout the book until you find yourself cheering for her. 

Miranda finds herself auditioning for the local theatre production in Happy Rock. I can’t say why without giving some things away, but she does. Having been involved in many amateur theatre productions myself, I enjoyed this aspect of the book tremendously. The authors so accurately captured the weird tensions and disputes between castmates as well as the hilarious things that happen while in production like having weird food donated for opening night or company meals. Endless pea soup anyone? There are a lot of great characters in the cast and I enjoyed all the antics.

Happy Rock is delightful. Once again the authors have accurately captured what it is like to live in a small town where everyone knows your business and the gossip mill is rampant. It made a great setting for the story and all the wonderful characters.

The mystery is a fun one to solve with many twists and turns and red herrings. Like I said, not a furious, high stakes, page-turning thriller but fun all the same. Think of a more unlikely detective story than hard hitting police procedural. More Murder She Wrote, not CSI. More fun and less grit. And if you like your murder mysteries less bloody, this would be a good pick for you.

Overall, a great start to the series and I can’t wait to see what Miranda gets up to next.

Thank you, HarperCollins Canada for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.