My Coffee & Thorn Guest: Isobel Blackthorn- Murder In Myrtle Bay

(Ruth Finlay Mysteries Book 1)

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About the Book

Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Print length: 288 pages (83K words)
Age range: This is an adult book, but would be suitable for young adults
Trigger warnings: like the packet of peanuts that may contain nuts, this book may contain a murder…
Amazon Rating: 4.5*
When feature writer Ruth Finlay and her elderly neighbor Doris Cleaver visit an antique and collectibles market in the small town of Myrtle Bay, they get a lot more than they bargained for.
After Ruth’s old tennis coach is found dead, they discover that there’s no lack of people who harbor a grudge against the victim, and a tangled web of family ties and lies begins to unravel. But can Ruth and Doris find the killer in time to avert a second murder?
A quirky feel-good mystery laced with intrigue, Murder in Myrtle Bay is the first book in Isobel Blackthorn’s ‘Ruth Finlay Mysteries’ series. Set in small town Australia, it is a sure pick for any fan of classic whodunits and cozy mysteries!
Ms Blackthorn’s ability to put the reader into the story – into the landscape, the buildings her characters inhabit or visit, like the antiques market, the bakery, the nursing home – keeps the reader captivated.
I loved the the road Ruth and Doris travelled to finally unmask the murderer. Doris knew from the beginning the person she loathed most in the world, was involved. I loved how surprised they were, as well as the reader, when the culprit was revealed. Amazon review
I’m usually pretty good at working out whodunnit, but the author had me baffled with this one, and kept me guessing to the end in real Christieesque fashion. An excellent read, and a new lead character worth following. 5 stars without hesitation from me. Goodreads review
 The mystery behind the murder kept me guessing till the end. Suspects were plenty and so were red herrings. The events that finally lead to Ruth and Doris coming face-to-face with the killer was no less than a nail-biting scene. Speaking of killer, their identity and the reason for murder was a huge shocker. Unexpected. Goodreads review
Isobel Blackthorn is an award-winning author of unique and engaging fiction. She writes gripping mysteries, historical fiction and dark psychological thrillers. Her Canary Islands collection begins with The Drago Tree and includes A Matter of Latitude, Clarissa’s Warning and A Prison in the Sun. Her interest in the occult is explored in The Unlikely Occultist: A biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey and the dark mystery A Perfect Square.
Her dark thriller The Cabin Sessions was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award 2018 and the Ditmar Awards 2018. Isobel’s  biographical short story ‘Nothing to Declare’ which forms the first chapter of Emma’s Tapestry was shortlisted for the Ada Cambridge Prose Prize 2019.  A Prison in the Sun was shortlisted in the LGBTQ category of the Readers’ Favorite Book Awards 2020 and the International Book Awards 2021. And The Unlikely Occultist: A biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey received an Honorable Mention in the 2021 Reader’s Favorite Book Awards.
Isobel writes non fiction too. She is the author of the world’s only biography of Theosophist and mother of the New Age movement Alice Bailey – Alice A. Bailey: Life & Legacy.
Isobel’s first work, which she wrote in 2008, is Voltaire’s Garden. This memoir is set in the mid 2000s and tells the story of building a sustainable lifestyle B&B in Cobargo on the south coast of New South Wales, Australia, which gained international attention when a firestorm razed the idyllic historic village on New Year’s Eve 2019.
Isobel’s writing appears in journals and websites around the world, including Esoteric Quarterly, New Dawn Magazine, Paranoia, Mused Literary Review, Trip Fiction, Backhand Stories, Fictive Dream and On Line Opinion. Isobel was a judge for the Shadow Awards 2020 long fiction category. Her book reviews have appeared in New Dawn Magazine, Esoteric Quarterly, Shiny New Books, Sisters in Crime, Australian Women Writers, Trip Fiction and Newtown Review of Books.
Isobel’s interests are many and varied. She has a long-standing association with the Canary Islands, having lived in Lanzarote in the late 1980s. A humanitarian and campaigner for social justice, in 1999 Isobel founded the internationally acclaimed Ghana Link, uniting two high schools, one a relatively privileged state school located in the heart of England, the other a materially impoverished school in a remote part of the Upper Volta region of Ghana, West Africa.
Isobel has a background in Western Esotericism. She holds 1st Class Honours in Social Studies, and a PhD from the University of Western Sydney for her ground-breaking research on the works of Alice A. Bailey. After working as a teacher, market trader and PA to a literary agent, she arrived at writing in her forties, and her stories are as diverse and intriguing as her life has been.
Isobel has performed her literary works at events in a range of settings and given workshops in creative writing.
British by birth, Isobel entered this world in Farnborough, Kent, She has lived in England, Australia, Spain and the Canary Islands.

My review

I don’t know why I thought this cosy mystery was set in the UK (something had made me think Cornwall or Yorkshire?) but what a pleasant surprise to discover I was in the wrong hemisphere, with the setting very much Australian – a nice, unexpected change of reading location for me. (And as it was cold and raining here in England on the afternoon I started reading, the ‘virtual sunshine’ was a much appreciated bonus.) 
I discovered plenty of red herrings, a host of suspects who bore different grudges, possible motives, secrets and resentments to be revealed and unravelled … I didn’t guess ‘whodunit’ until the end. I did guess where the murder itself would be, so finding the body wasn’t a surprise, (but that didn’t matter in the slightest,) I’ll not say more for fear of giving away spoilers.
I liked our two main ‘sleuths’, Ruth and Doris,  a clever touch by the author to have one young and one much older. They balanced each other and worked well together, both as believable characters and from a writing technique perspective. There were some good touches of humour dotted here and there. (Difficult elderly relatives … most of us have been there!)
The location – and the food (there’s lots of food) – was skilfully described, taking the reader firmly into the story as if watching what was happening through a hidden camera. I do wonder if some descriptive scenes were a little overdone, resulting in slowing the action slightly, but not enough to spoil this reader’s enjoyment.
Murder In Myrtle Bay should please fans of the light read cosy (cozy: US spelling) mystery: a good plot, likeable (and unlikable!) characters, well written and entertaining.
A good start to what promises to be a good series.
4 stars
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