Guest Reviews

Bookmarked For Murder (Mystery Bookshop Book 5)

V. M. Burns

Kensington Pub.

Nov 26th, 2019



Bookmarked for Murder by V. M. Burns is the fifth book in the Mystery Bookshop series, one of three the author writes.  Many of the amateur sleuths in this series are not young at heart, which adds to the plot.


“I write three series and this one is from the “Mystery Bookshop series.”  It has a story within a story with a contemporary murder and a historical cozy mystery. The protagonist has two poodle dogs, Snickers and Oreo, but they do not play a role in the plot.  BTW: the dogs on the cover are actually my dogs.  I also write a series, “RJ Franklin’s Mysteries” that is set in the fictious town of St. Joseph Indiana, based on my hometown of South Bend Indiana. This combines a police procedural with culinary soul food recipes. The other series is my “Dog Club Mysteries” where the protagonist, Lilly, is a woman whose husband divorced her after twenty-five years of marriage.  In the first book, she is accused of murdering her husband but is subsequently cleared. This series will be the next book that is published in August.  It is titled Paw and Order that has Lilly and the dog club traveling to a dog show.  It is a fundraiser for a rescue organization in Tennessee. Unfortunately, an eccentric millionaire is murdered at the event and Lilly tries to find out who did it.”


The story begins with bookshop owner and historical novelist Sam Washington returning home to North Harbor, Michigan, on a chartered bus. Along for the ride is her grandmother Nana Jo and her gal pals Irma, Dorothy, and Ruby Mae from Shady Acres Retirement Village. Also on the bus is Irma’s current boyfriend Max Franck, a Pulitzer prize-winning author. He is found murdered on the bus during a pit stop, and some wonder if his death has anything to do with his next book that reveals more information on the assassination of Robert Kennedy. Now Sam’s feisty grandmother, and the quirky retirement village friends, Irma, Dorothy, and Ruby Mae, help Sam try to solve the murder.


“My desire was to write a story where a murder takes place within a closed environment, such as a train, plane, or bus.  The suspect pool will be limited.  I got the idea from my personal experience.  Having grown up in South Bend Indiana, around the holidays there were bus shopping trips to the bigger cities like Chicago and Detroit.  All someone has to do is pay about $20 to shop all day and take the bus home.  I thought what if there is a murder that takes place on the bus.”


Both Samantha and her grandmother use their personalities to connect the dots to find the killer. Samantha, is strong, intelligent, curious and gifted with a strong intuition for solving mysteries, while her grandmother is no-nonsense and feisty.  


Samantha also uses some skills she has collected as a mystery writer to help her solve the crime.  She is writing an English historical cozy mystery that takes place in the 1930s in the countryside of England providing the reader a story within a story. “At some point I would like to write a whole book with a British cozy mystery.  In this book I thought how WWII is a good time period because it is so intriguing.  To tie them together, I did some research and found out that Joseph Kennedy was Ambassador to the UK around WWII and with the contemporary mystery the person killed was writing a book about the conspiracy surrounding RFK’s death.”


This mystery within a mystery concept is a nice touch. There is a good dose of humor, wit and humility in this book. A welcome addition to the story is the quirky characters that make the novel fun to read.

Smoke Screen by Iris Johansen brings to life a realistic page-turner. Readers will be reminded of the genocide in Rwanda through some of the descriptions in this plot.


Women empowerment are always a part of the stories that Johansen writes.  “I like writing strong women.  In this one I had a bunch of them.  They showed the world what they could do.  One quality they all had in common was independence.  They are talented and bad ass.  I think they complement each other and their male counterparts.”


The plot begins with Journalist Jill Cassidy leaving the fictional country of Maldara to approach forensic sculptor Eve Duncan for help. She is given a heart-wrenching story by Jill who asks her to reconstruct and identify children who were brutally slaughtered. Eve agrees because she wants to give these children back to their parents and help to provide closure. But Jill actually has a different agenda and has manipulated Eve to this African country under somewhat false pretenses. The real reason Jill and CIA agent Jed Novak need Eve is to determine if the skull of mercenary Nils Varak is someone else, done to make the world believe he’s dead. 


Johansen noted, “I want to write fresher stories that are new and different.  This is why I put an emphasis on Eve’s career.  I hope readers like the character Jill.  I see her as tough, sympathetic, driven, determined, a loner, and a manipulator. I had to strike a note in the book, because I did not want her to be too much of a manipulator of Eve. She is basically an honest and forthright person who had a goal and went after it.  I admired her as a journalist.  Much like her is Novak who is also very driven, tough, and smart.  They are definitely simpatico. Together, they make a great team.”


She went on to say that she plans on bringing back these new characters, “In the next Eve book, Jed Novak will be a major secondary character and Jill will be mentioned. There will also be a dog in it because I am in love with dogs and I think they should be cherished. 


As with all her books, the antagonists are truly immoral people with no redeeming qualities. Varak and his men have raped and beaten Jill, and has burned beyond recognition 27 children. He is assisted in his evil ways by Zahra Kiyani, who became President of Maldara after her father was assassinated. She seizes more and more power and wants to become the country’s Queen. Zahra thinks it is her due as a descendant of Cleopatra’s daughter Kiya. This plot-line actually  enhances the novel because the skulls play such an important part of the story and referring to ancient times seems a natural flow. 


 “My books these days are a little tougher. In this novel, Zahra becomes an Cleopatra-like evil person.  My bad guys must be truly bad.  I hope from the very first page readers root for them to get their due.  People should not feel sorry for them.  In my next Eve book the bad guys are really bad.” 


To counter those bad guys as the conflict rises, Joe Quinn leaves London and flies to Eve’s  side, intending to help and protect her. As the plot becomes more intense, Eve, Joe, Jill and Novak find themselves up against a much greater evil; one they are determined to stop. 


Johansen introduces new characters, which enhances those fan favorites characters. At times, the focus of the book is Jill. But this takes nothing away from the plot and actually adds to this spell-binding page-turner.

Latest comments

25.11 | 11:05

Much media suggest teachers teach only subjects, but really: "... our job as teachers to help her learn to read, understand and think critically on her own."

29.08 | 02:19

I love reading. I will start reading Rough Ride by Kristen Ashley after my and hope it would be interesting.

10.06 | 12:03

The news Jacquelyn Winespear is on my summer reading list.
Looking forward to another Maise Dobbs

24.12 | 00:28

Always look forward to your weekly blog, Marti ... safe travels this week. Merry Christmas!