Cover Image: Murder Ink

Murder Ink

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Murder Ink by Betty Hechtman is the first book in A Writer for Hire Mystery series.  This story is told in the first person from Veronica Blackstone’s point-of-view.  Veronica had a successful first book, but she is having trouble completing the second book.  While waiting for inspiration to hit, Veronica has become a writer for hire as well as a writing coach.  She is hired by Evan to write a letter to a co-worker in the hopes of getting him a date.  Evan is a nervous man who can use all the help he can get.  Veronica also gets hired by Mrs. Parker to create a celebration of life booklet for her recently deceased daughter, Rachel.  Veronica is shocked that the vibrant Rachel is dead.  She worked with Rachel and her then fiancé’, Luke to polish their wedding vows a year ago.  There are some unanswered questions regarding Rachel’s death and Veronica sets out to fill in the blanks.  Murder Ink was easy to read with some quirky characters.  I liked the storyline involving Evan.  It was humorous.  I am not a fan of stories told in the first person and that includes Murder Ink.  We get too much of what Veronica thinks as well as repetition of information.  I thought the pacing was a little slow.  It could have been peppier (it does pick up near the end).  The mystery was straightforward, though, I did not feel it was the main focus of the book.  Veronica did ask people questions but I felt she missed the mark at times.  There was some suspicious activity that made the mystery more interesting.  I thought that Veronica got lucky with the solution.  I found it easy to sus out the guilty party (might as well have been a neon arrow over the persons head).  The mystery wrapped up quickly.  If I did not know better, I would think this was the author’s first cozy mystery.  I did enjoy the descriptions of Chicago and Veronica’s neighborhood.  There were some interesting tidbits about buildings relating back to the Chicago Worlds Fair.  I also enjoyed the writer’s group and Veronica’s downstairs neighbor.   Will I read the next book in A Writer for Hire Mystery series?  I believe I will skip it as this series as it is not a good fit for me.  Murder Ink is an easygoing cozy mystery with a matchmaking stay-at-home mom, a undefine death, invigorating dance classes, a nervous Nellie, a troublesome television, and a cute cop.
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A slow read.

Veronica is a writer for hire and she is hired to write a celebration of life book for a young woman that fell off her balcony. Veronica goes in search of stories and learns that in the last months before her death the woman was behaving strangely. She finds strange things were happening to the woman, and soon, strange things start happening to Veronica too.

Not much sleuthing going on in this story. At most as a quest to find stories about Rachel. There are a few side plots with a man that needs help writing notes to a woman he likes and a writing group. They are entertaining and make up for the subtle presence of the mystery.

Too bad the ending is rushed.
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This is an excellent first in a new series; I enjoyed it! The characters are fun and fresh with a variety of personalities. The setting is one the author knows well and loves, as evidenced by the descriptions that make it come to life. The mystery is intriguing and kept me on my toes as I considered whodunit. It left me awaiting the next one!

Veronica is a writer-for-hire who will write for almost any need, from wedding vows to company brochures to love letters. She wrote a bestselling mystery, started the sequel, and froze. In the meantime, the side jobs and the writer’s group she leads helps pay the bills.

Veronica has two new assignments A shy head of IT at an upscale hotel wants to marry a lovely young woman where he works but doesn’t know how to ask her out on that very important first date. Veronica will write a note for Evan to deliver to Sally to arrange a first date. She will observe from a distance to coach him. Veronica insists she is not a matchmaker, but this poor guy really needs help.

The other assignment is from Camille, the mother of a woman whose wedding vows Veronica helped polish about a year ago. Rachel had been a vibrant, happy young woman back then. She recently passed away from a fall from the balcony of her high-rise condo. The cause of her fall was undetermined; her husband, Luke, was at work when it happened. Rachel’s mother made what sounded like excuses for what might have happened. The family is prominent and wealthy, so she wants to do everything properly. She hires Veronica to prepare a Celebration of Life for people at Rachel’s memorial service but gives little information other than photo albums.

Veronica arranged to meet Rachel’s former co-workers, then found the dance gym she attended to get anecdotes about her to include in the biography. The more she heard, the more Veronica knew something had gone terribly wrong with this once happy girl. She visited with Luke where he worked, also at the upscale hotel where Evan and Sally work, to learn more about Rachel’s life from him.

At the weekly writers’ group, students often ask Veronica about her anonymous clients. They are an eclectic mix of people, from the taciturn police officer to the enthusiastic friend who loves the history of the Chicago neighborhood they live in. They become interested in the deceased woman and the young man interested in his co-worker. The taciturn cop becomes a friend when he finds her bringing home a cat from the pet shop where she writes about shelter pets in urgent need of a home. 

Readers familiar with Betty Hechtman’s cozy mystery series will enjoy this. While the career focal point and locale are different, her trademark humor is evident, as is the complexity of the mystery. Veronica and other characters are very likable; they are well-defined through conversations and actions, and Veronica also through her thoughts and memories. I was amused by Veronica bringing home her new cat, Rocky, with no clue about litter boxes and other necessities and Ben’s approach to the adoption. I was fascinated by the Chicago neighborhood and its history, and was trying hard to find whodunit, especially when someone began to target Veronica. I highly recommend this to those who enjoy well-written mysteries that include writers, a Chicago setting, and cats.
From a thankful heart: I received an E-arc of this from the publisher through NetGalley, and this is my honest review.
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Veronica is a best-selling author who is struggling to write her next book. In the meantime, she leads a writing group – who expect her to have all the answers, even if they don't want to listen to her critique – and she is, literally, a writer for hire. She'll write resumes, love letters, wedding vows or anything else someone will pay her to write. While gathering information for her current job, writing a celebration of life for the funeral of a woman whose wedding vows she helped write just a year ago, she uncovers things that make her question the circumstances of her former client's death.

 This is the first book in a new series by an author who writes another series that I have enjoyed, so I was eager to get in on this series from the beginning. Maybe it's just the first-in-a-series thing that I've seen in so many books, but I wasn't as invested in this book as I'd hoped to be. The characters are well-developed and I can see the beginning of relationships developing between some of them, but the story itself just seemed to drag. While cozy mysteries aren't known for being as fast-paced as other types of mysteries, the pace of this one seemed slower than most. That said, the mystery was good, and I was surprised by the ending, perhaps because there weren't many clues that would lead a reader to that particular conclusion. With all of that, though, I look forward to reading the next book in this series, so I can learn more about Veronica and her friends.
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3.5/5 stars.
Murder Ink was a cute a quick read. —  a very nice change of pace from my typical reads. Betty Hechtman’s writing style is easily digestible and her characters are interesting. This is book one in an upcoming series and I look forward to the next novel.
My one critique is that, as an avid whodunnit reader, I did not feel that there were enough clues required for the reader to successfully deduce the murderer, so the conclusion felt a tad arbitrary. 
(I also love the cover art of this novel!)
Thank you to Severn House Publishers and NetGallery for the ARC!
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Veronica, a novelist with writers block, has carved out a niche writing smaller things- wedding vows, love letters, and, here a tribute for a dead woman.  This is an interesting start to a new series, which sees Veronica unconvinced that Rachel's death in a fall was accidental or suicide.  After all, she worked with Rachel only a year earlier to write the vows for Rachel's wedding to Luke.  Something seems not right but she can't put her finger on it.  Of course, she feels the need to investigate but then odd things begin to happen to her- is she being warned off by Rachel's powerful family?  No spoilers from me but this has enough twists to keep you guessing.  Thanks to netgalley for the ARC. It's a good read and I'm looking forward to seeing Veronica again.
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This is the first in the ‘Writer For Hire’ series and the first book I’ve read by this author.

Veronica is a bestselling author but got writer’s block when it came to the second book, so she becomes successful by writing anything her clients want; ads, notices, marriage vows, love letters, etc.  She is asked to write a funeral tribute for a young woman who tragically died – just a year after Veronica wrote her wedding vows for her and her husband-to-be – and then Veronica starts to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death.

I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it.

Thank you to NetGalley and Severn House for an advance reader copy in return for an honest review.
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Murder Ink is the first book in the new Writer by Hire Mystery series by author Betty Hechtman.  This is also the first book that I have read by this author.  Let me start out by saying that I chose this book based on the premise.  It sounded intriguing- a writer for hire who could stumble upon a mystery during one of her jobs.  I liked the main character Veronica and think that the secondary cast of characters in her writing group show promise as the series continues.

Where this fell apart for me was the pacing and the mystery.  Understanding that this is the first book in a new series, I went into reading it knowing that sometimes it takes a bit for the story to get off the ground as the author provides some backstory for the reader.  However, I never felt like this story took off for me.  The pacing seemed very slow and by the middle of the book, I didn't even feel like there was a mystery to be solved.  For me, I didn't feel like Veronica stumbled upon a mystery that needed to be solved, and therefore, for me, it didn't really feel like she was doing any real sleuthing.  The ending seemed a bit too pat for me as well.  

I voluntarily read a digital advanced reader copy provided to me by the publisher, Severen House, through Netgalley.  The thoughts expressed are my own.
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This is the debut of the new cozy mystery series "A Writer For Hire" Mystery  series by cozy author Betty Hechtman. I am a long time fan of the author's other series and was pleased to receive this new series for review. My review opinion is my own. Thank you to Net Galley and to the publisher.  This is such a fun series that has a wonderful new cozy theme of a writer protagnist.  I found it fascinating with a well crafted sleuth that kept me guessing to conclusion. 

Veronica Blackstone is a writer for hire.  She has one book published but cannot get through her second book so she takes on all writing jobs.  She writes everything from  biographies to  resumes and wedding vows,  She even writes love letters for a man who is in love with someone he works with.  She runs a writers group that meets once a week at her house of fellow writers and good friends.  Her current assignment is writing a celebration of life book for the funeral of one-time client Rachel Ross. Rachel died   one year after her wedding. Rachel died in a terrible fall. Once Veronica begins her research she finds suspicious clues that may lead her to believe Rachel was murdered.  She ask her writer's group to help and soon clues abound and suspects are leading Veronica and friends to the conclusion of murder. 

I loved this new fresh protagnist with a unique job in the world of cozies.  I like the supporting charcters and the fun sleuth that kept me guessing. I look forward to the next in series. Very well done to the author !
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Former mystery novelist Veronica is now a writer-for-hire, taking on odd jobs ranging from love letters to advertisements. After the success of her first detective novel, she developed a severe case of writer's block.  In "Murder Ink", we follow Veronica as she takes on several small writing jobs, ultimately becoming embroiled in a real life mystery of her own, one that jeopardizes both her life and her sanity.

Being unfamiliar with the author but intrigued by the premise, I found "Murder Ink" to be a surprisingly fun little cozy mystery. There is a little bit of intrigue, a little bit of romance, but nothing graphic or violent.  

My criticism of "Murder Ink" is, ironically, the writing. Although the book is meant to be from a first-person perspective, both the inner dialogue and conversations felt stilted and unnatural, not at all the way a person thinks or talks naturally.  The problem seems to be that the author prefers short, clear sentences rather than the rambling style more characteristic of thinking and speech. I actually wondered if this was meant to be a YA novel, based on the writing. Unfortunately, at times the writing  distracted me from the story, but it was not so significant as to ruin my experience altogether, and I decided that the advantages of the story outweighed my hang-ups with the writing. Ultimately, I really wanted to know what happened. 

I enjoyed most of the characters, even if they did seem a little one-sided at times. The main character, Veronica, seems a little dense at times, but perhaps I am being too hard on her. We all have difficulty  seeing what is happening to us, especially when we are questioning our own judgment. Veronica, however, is far too naive and trusting- seems like she could be taken advantage of pretty easily.  

The pace of the story felt very comfortable until the last few chapters, in which everything was wrapped up in such a whirlwind that I barely had time to process what happened.  I did not figure out the culprit until the very end, being convinced it was someone else, but there also was not much information that could have led the reader to identify the true villain. 

Overall, this is a cute, harmless little book that will appeal mostly to fans of cozy mysteries and romances. Would I read the next in the series? Possibly, but I would have to be in the mood for something light and easy. That being said, I do wonder what will happen to some of the characters we met.....especially the cat!

Thank you to NetGalley and Severn House Publishing for the ARC
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Thanks to NetGalley and Severn House for an ARC.  

Veronica Blackstone is a writer for hire - if you want your business ads to shine, if you need a love letter written or a resume pimped she will do it for a fee.  She lives alone in an old fashioned apartment in an old fashioned Chicago neighbourhood and runs writing groups from her home.  
She is hired by a family to write a funeral order of service.  As she researches the young woman's life, she discovers there may be more to her tragic death than was first thought.  As she continues to dig, things become very strange indeed and she enlists the help of several of her clients to join the dots.  
I loved this.  It was a breath of fresh air, wholesome and cosy in the traditional mystery sense despite some modern themes, with straightforward prose and an engaging cast of characters.  I would happily read more about Veronica's adventures.
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Simply done one-woman investigative mystery, in line with Marple and a touch of Megan Goldin's The Night Swim. I know, strange comparison but that's just me.
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This is an unusual but very engaging premise. Veronica Blackstone is a writer for hire: no really, she’ll write you a wedding vow, a moving piece to be read at a funeral or even spruce up your CV. Sadly, what she’s working on currently is a celebration of life book for one of her former clients, someone for whom she’d written marital vows (the client died one year after her wedding). Veronica goes to lengths to learn more about Rachel, the deceased, finding out about her loves and likes, her friends and interests… but with a domineering family, one who is at pains to keep their business private, it’s difficult to get a real sense of who Rachel was. Perhaps there’s something at play here that should caution Veronica? The writer wants to find the truth behind Rachel’s death and is willing to go the extra mile to do so. I enjoyed it; it’s a surprisingly speedy read and one that whisks you along. I’d love to know if more books are planned for the series as I would definitely read.
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Murder Ink is a well-written psychological suspense take with some interesting characters and a fair level of suspense. Unfortunately, the plot is nothing special, and ultimately the entire thing unravels in just a few pages at the end. The effect is like slamming into a brick wall-- without the fun. Think how many of Patricia Cornwell's earlier works end and you'll get it. I guess the writer just got tired of writing this book. Too bad.
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This is the start of a new and very different Writer For Hire series, from the author of the successful Crochet Mysteries and Yarn Retreat Mysteries., in which Veronica Blackstone, as the series title suggest, will write anything for you be it biographies, resumes or wedding vows, even love letters.  Here she has to write a funeral tribute for a former client who has dies suddenly, and young. But was her suicidal fall an accident or something more sinister? 

This moves along at a good pace, and members of Veronica's writing group are intriguing characters for future instalments, including the obligatory love interest with a cop. I'll be interested in seeing how this series develops after a promising start.
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The main character of this novel is Veronica Blackstone.   An author who wrote a bestseller, but who has frozen when it comes to that, oh so difficult, second novel, she has used her previous success to run a writing group and as a ghostwriter.   In this mystery, she has two main writing jobs.  The first, to write love letters for a rather nerdy and intense man, named Evan, who is pining for work colleague, Sally.  The second task is a sadder one. A year ago, Veronica helped write marriage vows for Rachel Parker and her husband, Luke.  Now she learns that Rachel has died and she is asked to asked to help prepare a memory book for her funeral.

Rachel Parker came from a successful and wealthy family – enter image obsessed matriarch, Camille Parker.  However, she was not as interested in the money or image, and this resulted in her teaching in a less than exclusive school and marrying bartender, Luke.   As Veronica begins to look into Rachel’s life, she questions her death and what caused it.

This is a pleasurable mystery, with the author building up a good background story for Veronica and a number of other characters to help give background.   I liked the way she kept all of the threads together and didn’t lose track of any of the interweaving strands.  A good start to a series.  I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.
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In Which We Meet Veronica....
In which we meet Veronica, writer for hire and new amateur sleuth on the block. Veronica writes anything and everything for a living. When her latest assignment leaves her with questions Veronica begins to investigate further. She’s soon drawn into a worrying mystery. Wholly entertaining with a likeable protagonist and a colourful cast of supporting characters. Well plotted and not as predictable as you may at first think.
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I received this ARC via Netgalley and Severn House in return for an honest review.  Wow, I loved this book!  It’s such a fun twist on the protagonist’s line of work and then how the mystery develops and is solved.  Veronica Blackstone writes for a living and she writes everything from love letters, resumes, death notices, invitations.  Nothing legal is outside her scope, or as she puts it, ‘no ransom notes or letters threatening bodily harm’.  This talent keeps her very busy as she works from home in Chicago.  She also leads a weekly small support group of amateur writers in her home.  In this book, Veronica accepts two commissions.  The first is to help a man effectively communicate with a woman at work whom he’d like to date but is too diffident to approach.  The second is, sadly, writing a commemorative book for the funeral service of a young woman for whom she’d helped write wedding vows the year before.  This second commission leads Veronica into both high society and, slowly, into solving what happened to Rachel Parker and why.  Soon, strange things are happening to Veronica, similar to those that appeared to happen to Rachel too.  As the two commissions take more and more of her time, Veronica relies on those around her to help her solve the compounding mysteries.  
Ms. Hechtman does a lovely job of describing the Chicago neighborhoods without giving too much description.  Veronica is an interesting woman and all the characters are well written and interesting.  The killer is not, at all, obvious and I found the resolution to also be an unusual one and very satisfying.  I hope there are more Veronica Blackstone books and kudos to Ms. Hechtman for a great take on the traditional cozy!
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208 pages

4 stars

Veronica Blackstone is a writer with a difference. She writes all sorts of things for other people. Death notices, love letters, invitations, nothing is beyond her talents. She keeps very busy and truly enjoys her work. 

She has two new commissions; one for a geeky young man who has a huge crush on a woman with whom he works and the other a celebration of life notice for a young woman who was a bride just a year earlier. She recalls writing Rachel and Luke's wedding vows. Rachel fell to her death from the balcony of her condo. 

Camille Parker, Rachel's mother is an impossible woman: imperious and demanding, she sees the world as hers to rule. Talking to an ordinary person is seen as almost beneath her. Image is everything with this woman. Camille doesn't like Luke, her son-in-law either. 

Luke's reaction to Rachel's death seems a little off to Veronica. 

In the midst of her very busy life, Veronica begins to suspect there is more to Rachel's death than it seems. She wonders about the people in Rachel's life. Strange things begin to happen to Veronica. Things she didn't order show up and her television has a mind of its own. 

I never guessed the perpetrator of the crime. 

I want to thank NetGalley and Severn House for forwarding to me a copy of this great book for me to read, enjoy and review.
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