Review: Behind the Frame – Tracy Gardner
by Tracy Gardner
Series: Shepherd Sisters Mysteries #2
Also in this series: Out of the Picture
Publisher: Hallmark Publishing
Publication Date: August 11, 2020
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
When art in the park
leads to murder in the dark,
the Shepherd sisters
have another crime to solve.
Savanna Shepherd, an art expert turned elementary art teacher, is planning the Art in the Park festival for her hometown of Carson. But apparently, someone isn't happy that Carson got to host the event: the beloved statue in the park is destroyed. Not long after, Savanna finds the dead body of one of the people on the planning committee.
Savanna and her sisters are convinced that the arrested murder suspect didn't do it, despite strong evidence to the contrary. With the help of Dr. Aidan Gallager, Savanna's new romantic interest, they uncover hidden resentments and intrigue. Several people in Carson had a motive for the murder. Can they find out which one of them is behind the framing of an innocent person?
Content warnings: View Spoiler »murder (MC discovers the murder victim), attempted murder via car accident « Hide Spoiler
I read and enjoyed the first mystery in this series, so I was happy to stop back in to Carson and see how Savanna and her sisters were doing. This is another cute small-town cozy mystery with some sweet romantic elements.
After the events of last fall, Savanna is very much looking forward to the end of the school year, and the annual Art in the Park festival. Savanna’s spent quite a bit of time campaigning to get it placed in her small town of Carson this year, and while it’s a lot of work, it’s also doing a lot of good for the town’s tourism. That is, until a statue in the park is defaced and beheaded, and her co-planner ends up murdered. The police quickly make an arrest, but Savanna knows they have the wrong man. But can she prove it before the murderer strikes again?
There’s not as much of the art history element this time, which I missed very much. Instead, there’s a lot of investigation of small town drama – the divorced wife, the jealous hotel owner, the scorned son, the scheming politician. It’s not anything groundbreaking, but it was still very entertaining with plenty of red herrings. One of the things I enjoyed most about this mystery, though, was how Savanna worked with her sisters, one of whom was the lawyer defending the wrongly accused man. It gave her a bit more of an excuse to be sticking her nose into everything, though I think there was the usual eyebrow-raising silliness that goes with cozy mysteries. I did appreciate that Savanna and her family weren’t the type to go haring off wildly – Savanna’s careful to bring someone else with her (usually a sister or her maybe-boyfriend Aidan) and her friends and family are constantly warning her to be careful. The focus on Savanna’s family – her sisters, nephew and parents – is my favorite thing about this series, as it’s quite sweet.
“Things felt too formal and polite between them. She hadn’t seen him in over two weeks. They’d texted a little, and talked on the phone less than that, but connecting was hit and miss between their schedules. She wished she could rewind to the comfortable, easy rapport of their last date. Every time he left, it was like starting over again when he returned.”
The low-key romance with Aidan is sweet. Aidan, the town doctor, has been flying back and forth to help out his old hospital in New York, so between that, his job in Carson, and spending time with his daughter Molly, he and Savanna have had very little time together. It’s frustrating for her, especially since she’s still not quite sure about how he feels about her. There’s a minor bit of an other-woman plot – Savanna gets jealous when she finds out that Aidan’s working with a gorgeous female doctor – that I found completely unnecessary. There’s also a bit of a side romance between two other characters that took up a bit of pagetime and I’m curious to see how that pans out.
Overall, this was a fun mystery with enjoyable characters and just enough romance for me. Very much recommended if you love cozy mysteries!