I have always been a fan of mysteries, especially British ones. I can't explain what it is about them, but they just draw me in and keep my interest through out the entire thing. The characters are fun and different, I love the names of the towns/villages (and pubs), and the writing feels like a favorite blanket. You see, I grew up on British television, especially British mysteries. My mom was a big fan of things like Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie, and that love was not only passed on to me, but has spread to include all kinds of things, including Midsomer Murders. And that is what this book felt like to me.
This is the first time that I have met Libby and her friends, and after I got through the first chapter, getting used to the author's writing style and figuring out who everyone was, I really got into the book - so much so that I read it in one sitting. (If you're not used to British writing, that first chapter - and the fact that there are a lot of conversations going on throughout the book - may seem a bit tedious, but give it a chance.) Having not read the first thirteen books, there were a few things I didn't understand, but that had nothing to do with the story or the author, and everything to do with my lack of knowledge for things that happened before, so I wouldn't say that these are stand-alones - the mystery itself is, but there is a lot of talk about things that happened before, and Libby is very stand-off-ish when it comes to this mystery, wanting nothing to do with trying to solve it.
The characters are an interesting group of people, some very different than the others, but all friends just the same. The village of Steeple Martin reminds me, as mentioned before, of a place I would come across in the TV series Midsomer Murders - the kind of place you would like to visit just to check out the scenery and enjoy the quiet and solitude of such a place. The mystery - a murder - begins in the very first paragraph of the book and it was great fun (for lack of a better phrase) trying to figure out who did it.
There were a couple of things that the author added at the beginning of the book that I really liked and felt were very useful. The map is great and it helped to have an idea of the layout before I got started. Also, she does a "Who's Who" where she lists out the characters and gives a bit of back information on them. I find these very helpful, especially when you have a lot of characters, and it also makes it easier to keep track of different characters as you go through a series.
This is a series I definitely plan to catch up on - and one I recommended to my mother (she is pretty picky when it comes to books, so that says a lot).
Note: I received a copy in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Please remember that this is my opinion based on my own personal interpretation of the book.