Friday, January 4, 2013

REVIEW: First to Find / Morgan C. Talbot

TITLE: First to Find (Caching Out Series #1)
AUTHOR: Morgan C. Talbot
AVAILABILITY: Amazon US (paperback), Amazon US (Kindle e-book), Amazon UK (paperback), Amazon UK (Kindle e-book), Barnes & Noble (paperback), Barnes & Noble (Nook e-book), OmniLit (e-book), Kobo (e-book)

Recommended for readers seeking colorful murder mysteries

Thriller/Mystery—Cozy Mystery/ Murder Mystery

First to Find falls comfortably in the murder mystery genre. It opens with a dead body, and what follows is a whodunit starring a puzzle-making geocacher turned amateur detective. The story is fairly G-rated, featuring dead bodies but nothing gruesome and virtually no violence.

First to Find opens as every good murder mystery should: with the discovery of a dead body. It hooks you from the start and entertains you while going through the suspect list, taking a few detours to expand upon the colorful lives of the characters.

The majority of First to Find is written from the third person limited perspective of Margarita, the amateur detective looking to solve the murder. Several sections are written from the third person limited perspective of her Australian roommate, Bindi.

Margarita Williams stumbles upon the dead body of one of her fellow geocachers one morning. When the man’s widow, untrusting of the local authorities, asks Margarita to discover the truth, Margarita sets out on a quest to solve the mystery before anyone else turns up dead.

Meanwhile, Bindi, Margarita’s Australian roommate, works on a puzzle of her own. Someone stole a sculpture from the local park around the same time as the murder took place, and she must find the real culprit to exonerate her falsely accused friend. The question is: are the crimes related?

First to Find revolves around the wonderful world of geocaching, an outdoor treasure hunting game. Players use GPS devices to navigate to coordinates and unearth caches—hidden containers containing trinkets for players to find and logbooks for them to sign. The local caching community featured in the novel is a group of unique, sometimes odd individuals. One of them may be the murderer, and any of them could be the next victim.

Margarita, haunted by past tragedies, tries to move on with her life by actively engaging with the people around her. Known for placing caches whose coordinates can only be unlocked by solving her clever puzzles, she has a sharp mind for making connections. This skill makes her the ideal candidate to solve what the bumbling local authorities cannot. Both cool and nerdy—and cool for being nerdy—she’s an immediately likable character whose thoughts and actions are a joy to watch.

Margarita may be the heroine of First to Find, but Bindi is far more than just the funky sidekick. A tea-guzzling Aussie with an abnormally sharp nose, she often outshines her costar with her charming peculiarities. Her story line runs parallel to Margarita’s, and while the two interact a lot at home, their missions are largely separate.

With everything going on around them—strange new neighbors, mysterious phone calls, suspicious actions by fellow geocachers—Margarita and Bindi face the challenge of separating the relevant clues from the everyday oddities of living among eccentric people. First to Find is as well plotted as mysteries get, with enough twists and red herrings to keep a reader guessing until its surprising ending, which neatly ties up all the loose ends.

In addition, Talbot’s lilting writing style, tailored based on which character’s perspective she’s writing from, gives the novel a distinctive and clever tone. Whether reflecting on their not-so-bright pasts or ruminating on their present situations, both Margarita and Bindi are easy to sympathize with and root for.

And then there’s the geocaching aspect, which serves as a fascinating backdrop to the mystery. I was intrigued by the glimpse into this fun (and apparently quite popular!) sport, of which I’d known nothing prior to reading First to Find. Talbot does an excellent job of illustrating the sport’s ins and outs, enough to tempt me to give it a try.

First to Find is a delightfully entertaining mystery starring a colorful cast of quirky characters. “Cozy” is certainly the right adjective for it, for it’s the kind of book I wanted to curl up with and finish from chapter one.

This book is very well edited.

This book is pretty much G-rated in terms of sex, violence, and adult language. Dead bodies are mentioned but not described at length.

[From the author’s Amazon page]

Morgan is an outdoorsy girl with a deep and abiding love for the natural sciences. Her degrees involve English and jujitsu. She enjoys hiking, camping, and wandering in the woods looking for the trail to the car, but there isn't enough chocolate on the planet to bribe her into rock climbing.
When she's not writing, she can be found making puzzles, getting lost on the way to geocaches, reading stories to her children, or taking far too many pictures of the same tree or rock.
She lives in Eastern Washington with her family.

Disclosure: Red Adept Publishing is the publisher of my upcoming science fiction novel, Artificial Absolutes. I bought and read this book on my own, and the above reflects only my honest opinion.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for such a generous and thorough review, Mary! I'm pleased that you found geocaching of interest, and completely unsurprised that Bindi's antics kept you entertained. Cozy, indeed!