Buried in a Book
A Novel Idea Mystery #1
Berkley Prime Crime, February 2012
Mass Market Paperback
Published in 2012, this is the first in a series featuring Lila Wilkins, a 45-year-old single parent of a teenaged son about to start college in the fall, who suddenly loses her job as a newspaper journalist due to downsizing. Knowing she has to find a new job soon, Lila spots an ad for Novel Idea, Literary Agency that is looking for an intern – a job Lila sees as getting paid to read so she takes it following her interview with the agency president, Ms. Bentley Burlington-Duke. Primarily Lila’s job is to read queries from would-be authors to determine whether a query should be rejected or given to an agent to follow up – 100 queries each day, 2 or 3 book proposals, and a host of other tasks plus send a letter to each author whose query she rejects. This leaves little time to read anything just for the pleasure of reading!
And, as if that wasn’t enough, did I mention that Lila’s mother, Althea, a palm and tarot card reader (and believer) calls to tell Lila that the cards show someone will die on her first day at the agency? Later that morning a disheveled man who introduces himself as Marlette, walks into the agency bearing some flowers, hands them to Lila, and then runs out when he hears other staff arriving. Meeting the literary agents for the first time, Lila agrees to go and get them coffee – but only this one time – and when she returns, she finds Marlette has also returned and is sitting on the couch in the reception area. Trying to get him to leave per her boss’s orders, Lila realizes he is dead. What a way to start a new job! Later Lila finds out that Marlette has a needle puncture wound in his neck – pointing to the likelihood that he was murdered.
Much of the rest of the book concerns Lila dealing with her son, Trey, who is in the process of finding himself and what he wants to do with his life and Lila trying to find out who killed Marlette – and why – without getting herself killed which a message painted on her home seems to indicate is a possibility. Along the way we meet the various people in Lila’s personal and work life, several of whom are possibly the murderer. Is the solution a huge surprise? No, but it also is not completely obvious. I’d say it’s a good summer read.
Reviewed by Melinda Drew, July 2021.