Intriguing mystery with laugh-out-loud banter between characters that makes this story shine!
Vivianne Murphy and Venice Martino, partners in Rainbow Realty, are beginning to see real success with their business, and life is starting to settle into a good place for them both.
Venice meets a nice man at the local supermarket and accepts his offer of dinner, and soon the two are seeing each other regularly even though Bryan has plans to permanently relocate in the coming summer to a condo in Phoenix.
Vivianne thinks something is off with Bryan but realizes what really has her worried is that her best friend might choose a future in Phoenix over their friendship and business. But then she also finds herself on a date when wealthy client John Berkman shows his interest.
To top things off, Viv’s sassy mother is getting ready for heart surgery back home in New York City. Viv plans to take time off to go back home to visit and help her stepfather, sister, and niece care for her while she recuperates.
But when Annie, Rainbow Realty’s receptionist, arrives to find a young woman in a wedding dress dead in their office’s backroom (which used to be a bridal shop), the two friends find themselves in the middle of a mystery. Detective Traynor from the local police department soon arrives and takes charge of the investigation, warning Viv to keep her nose out of things.
A year after the events of Real Estate, Murder, and Mayhem, the first book in the engaging Vivianne Murphy Mystery series, the lead characters – Vivianne Murphy and Venice Martino – transplants from New York City have settled down and made their real estate brokerage a success. The narrative of Real Estate, Dating, and Death is mostly from Viv’s point of view, but Venice picks up the story when necessary, and that worked well for me. Both are fun voices, but Viv is comedy gold. The banter between the two partners sparkles, and Viv’s conversations with her mother, sister, and niece also had me in stitches at times.
I liked that the story included these two 40-something women stepping out of their recent comfort zones and dipping their toes in the dating scene. They’re still young, no matter what Viv’s mother may say.
I enjoyed the setting in the Pacific Northwest with its vagaries of weather, and the houses in the woods across from each other sounded so fun. In this story, there are also scenes in Arizona that create an interesting contrast. I liked the fun mentions of actual locations in each of the states.
A significant thread in the story is the animals. Both Viv and Ven have dogs that they call and treat like their children. There is wildlife that makes appearances throughout the novel: raccoons, lizards, and bears, oh my!
But we read for the mystery, right? At first, I felt the mystery was going to be very secondary to the evolving relationships in the series, but suddenly – WHAM! – it was front and center, and I was shocked and surprised by what unfolded. There were quite a few twists and turns and hidden connections! However, the clues to the mystery are sprinkled throughout the book for the reader to see how everything fits together. And bravo to the author for the “didn’t-see-that-coming” moment at the close of the book. Hopefully, book three is coming soon.
I recommend REAL ESTATE, DATING, AND DEATH to cozy mystery readers who enjoy a character-driven story, a Pacific Northwest or Southwest U.S. setting, or even have an interest in a sleuth involved in real estate.
I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from Reedsy Discovery.
See my original review of “Real Estate, Dating, and Death” on Reedsy Discovery!