A Whale of a Murder

A Venus Bixby Mystery

Fiction - Mystery - Sleuth
358 Pages
Reviewed on 04/17/2024
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite

A Whale of a Murder: A Venus Bixby Mystery by Valerie Taylor is the very definition of a cozy mystery. Chatham Crossing is a peaceful and historic whaling village in New England. Like all small towns, it is populated by a variety of weird and wonderful characters, small-town jealousies, and political intrigues. Venus Bixby, a widow and owner of a popular retro-music store, longs for a more prominent place in the town’s affairs and heart, preferably as a member of the Town Committee. The Fourth of July weekend is her planned big splash, first with her 50th birthday party celebration to be held in the town’s most popular tourist attraction, the Sofia Sliva Whaling Museum, and then as the Grand Marshall in the town’s Fourth of July Parade. Her plans are scuttled, however, when she trips over the lifeless body of the museum’s gift shop manager, Margaret McGee, in the grounds of the museum. Was she murdered or was it an accident? Margaret’s death is just the start of an ongoing mystery that will take Chatham Crossing police and amateur detective Venus Bixby some time to unravel.

A Whale of a Murder is a pleasant read despite the grisly nature of murder. Author Valerie Taylor has cleverly combined an abhorrent crime with a cast of characters that are warm, funny, and at times exasperating. In many ways, the murder mystery is merely the vehicle around which the author unravels and exposes the many sub-strata of small-town life. Even in a small town, there are the elite and the ordinary folk. Aspiring to join the elite and be seen as such by the multitudes is a driving force for many of the characters. The petty jealousies and ulterior motives are beautifully woven beneath the ongoing murder investigation and the efforts to piece together the events of that fateful day. The romance within the story, especially between Budd and Venus, just adds to the depth and color of the novel. The inability of the characters to express their true feelings, even to their lovers and best friends, is a stark reminder of how we tend to isolate ourselves within our cocoons and be unwilling to trust anyone with our true thoughts. There are plenty of red herrings to ensure that readers will be guessing along the way as to the true perpetrator of these crimes and this is always the hallmark of a good murder mystery. I particularly enjoyed the social structure evident in the cast, although all of them would doubtless argue there was no discrimination as to social class in their little town. This is a fun, frothy story that I thoroughly enjoyed as a change from the darker, sinister novels I’ve read of late. I can highly recommend this read.

Courtnee Turner Hoyle

A Whale of a Murder is a cozy mystery by Valerie Taylor. Venus Bixby's fiftieth birthday party in the Gardens of the Sofia Silva Whaling Museum is delayed when Maggie McGee, a recently hired museum manager, is murdered. Venus receives the news in disbelief with a throbbing left thumb from an accident involving the victim. Chatham Crossing, once buzzing with the news of her birthday and the new addition to the museum, is now wondering about a list of suspects who were the last to interact with Maggie. These include Venus, her best friend, Carole, who owns a shop inside the museum, and her male companion, Budd Nickerson, who knew Maggie and her past. The police ask Sadie Hawkins, the museum curator and Venus's rival, to keep a secret that may help solve the crime. When another killing rocks the small community, Venus puts a plan in action that may help solve all the crimes at once.

Valerie Taylor offers a range of characters with varying and deep personalities. Her quirky protagonist will win readers' hearts as she asks everyone about their favorite song of the day and always has a song to relate to a situation. Taylor places a heavy emphasis on classic songs, from the characters' names to relatable connections. This book should come with a playlist, as many readers would love to hear some of the older tunes while absorbing each chapter. The perspective shifts between the characters, giving readers just enough information to keep them flipping pages until the exciting conclusion. The rich history of the town and the fun characters make Taylor's book one you won't want to put down! Readers who like cozy mysteries with a quirky female sleuth will love A Whale of a Murder.

Liz Konkel

A Whale of a Murder by Valerie Taylor is a Venus Bixby Mystery. On the surface, Chatham Crossing is a quaint little town but something sinister lurks underneath. Venus eagerly counts down the days to the Fourth of July celebrations that will kick off her chance to be part of the Town Committee and get a special position in the upcoming parade. Venus has decided with her upcoming fiftieth birthday that it’s finally her opportunity to shine. Nothing goes the way she planned and her chances start to seem dire as the morning of her epic party is met with a grim twist. It all starts when she unexpectedly trips and discovers a body connected to the whaling museum.

The charming town of Chatham Crossing with its picturesque atmosphere is the ideal location for this cozy mystery. This sets the ideal scene for murder to occur in a lighthearted mystery. Much of the tone is derived from the delightful nature of Venus Bixby who shines as the protagonist and whose attitude incorporates humor into the story. Valerie Taylor incorporates a strong familial element as Venus has a few complications with her sister which help to further round out her character. Playfulness is woven throughout the plot, creating light moments and fun banter between characters. The formatting has a unique structure with Chatham Crossing Chronicle articles incorporated that offer breaking news and an obituary. These are important elements in the story and help to further the mystery by including a different perspective than Venus’. A Whale of a Murder is a delightful mystery that has an idyllic setting, humorous dialogue, and plenty of surprises.

Anne-Marie Reynolds

A Whale of a Murder by Valerie Taylor is A Venus Bixby Mystery. Chatham Crossing is a cozy little whaling town where nothing ever happens. The July 4th holiday celebrations are underway, and Venus Bixby is hoping to get a place on the Town Committee. Owner of Oldies & Goodies, the local music store, Venus is finally moving on from her husband’s death. The holiday celebrations include her 50th birthday and her being the parade’s Grand Marshal. But things are about to fall apart for Venus. On the morning of her birthday party, she stumbles over a dead body. The victim is the museum gift shop’s manager, and Venus is immediately a suspect in the murder. A robbery at the museum muddies the waters, but Venus needs to clear her name in time for her birthday party. Can she find the thief and the murderer? Are they the same person? Or will Venus go down for a murder she didn’t commit?

A Whale of a Murder by Valerie Taylor is different from most of the other sleuth stories out today. For a start, the style of writing kind of leads you to think it is a true story, although it is fiction. It draws you in, believing you are reading one woman’s account of her fascinating life in a small whaling town. The characters Valerie Taylor has created are incredibly real people, entirely relatable, and easy to like. The plot is unique, with several twists and turns that will keep you guessing all the way through with a few red herrings. This is a small-town mystery with plenty of action and go in it, designed to keep you reading from start to finish and no dead spots. It is a thoroughly enjoyable story, and I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.

K.C. Finn

A Whale of a Murder is a work of fiction penned by author Valerie Taylor in the murder mystery, intrigue, and suspense subgenres, and it forms part of the Venus Bixby Mystery series. The work is best suited to the general adult reading audience. In this utterly charming tale, the coastal town of Chatham Crossing sets the stage for a thrilling whodunit during the Fourth of July festivities. Venus Bixby, the vivacious owner of Oldies & Goodies music store, envisions a weekend of celebration and recognition. However, her plans take an unexpected detour when she stumbles upon a gruesome discovery: the lifeless body of the museum gift shop manager attached to peculiar orange platform shoes.

Author Valerie Taylor has lovingly crafted a delightful tale, blending the quaint characteristics of a small town where everyone knows each other’s business with the suspenseful whispers and suspicions of a compelling murder mystery. Venus, thrust into the role of both suspect and investigator, navigates clues and red herrings with enthusiasm and sharp wits, and the narrative control keeps a close eye on her so that we’re always invited into her mind to puzzle it out in real time with her. The narrative is also infused with glorious humor, making Venus an endearing and relatable protagonist who brings light to even the darkest, most murderous moments of the plot. This maintains the cozy and enjoyable vibe of the piece, demonstrating Taylor's skill in crafting an entertaining and suspenseful story within the well-described, picturesque setting. Overall, I would certainly recommend A Whale of a Murder as a captivating, cozy mystery that keeps readers engaged from its festive beginning to the surprising end.