Many thanks to Amazon Publishing through Netgalley for an opportunity to read and review this book.
Invitation to Die, by Helen Smith, starts out by telling us that Winnie Kaster is going to die. She is one of the three bloggers who have been chosen to attend the Romance Writers of Great Britain’s annual conference. However, the story quickly gets more complicated, piling on characters that seem a bit over the top and situations that make little sense to anyone except Emily Castles, who is our heroine. The RWGB’s conference convenes in a fancy hotel in England, and soon enough, not just Winnie has died, but Teena – a fellow blogger who was also invited to the conference – has died in much the same way. Ms. Smith makes sure that we know Teena will die ahead of time, and the reader should find that acceptable anyway, because Teena is not a very likable character.
I read this book in about a day, because it really was interesting. It was fascinating – although a little tiresome, at the same time – to read a book that was about writing, that mentioned blogging and writing book reviews with some disdain, perhaps even hatred, from some of the characters. It makes me wonder from what source Ms. Smith’s idea for this book originated, since so much of the story was focused on how much bloggers who write reviews of books are disliked by authors. Yet surely she must know that her book, too, would be read and reviewed? I suppose that is part of the irony of the book.
A couple things that I disliked while reading it – apparently the heroine, Emily Castles, is going to be the star of several other novels that Smith will write, but I was unaware of this as I began reading the book. She wasn’t given much of an introduction in this – the debut novel in the series – which seems odd to me. What she does for a living is a little unknown from reading this book, which also makes it difficult to get to “know” her. She is a likable character, as are the majority of the characters that Ms. Smith writes in this book, but I never really felt all that attached to her as I read through the book. Also, the little bit of romance that happened between Emily and the detective, Rory James, was a little odd – it felt out of place, but I’m unsure if the book would have been better served had it been removed as it did have its place in the story arc. Lastly, I was a little confused as to how Emily put all of the pieces of the mystery together so quickly, and why she was chosen to talk about it at the first block of discussion during the conference.
Overall, though, this was a relatively light murder mystery – I don’t believe it was intended to be very serious or frightening, because it certainly did not exude that air. I would give it 4 out of 5 stars. I did enjoy reading it and I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a literary mystery that is some serious in parts – but mostly not about the murder, for what sense that makes. There are plenty of side stories that Ms. Smith could have followed, which adds interesting pieces to the actual story and makes it seem more alive. I’m definitely glad I requested this title.