Friday, January 11, 2013

Shakespeare Meets Spies and Terrorists in a Vermont B&B

    First Paragraph:
   "It's just for two nights."
   "Please? Do it for me?" I hate it when he looks at me like that. I hate that he knows I hate it when he looks at me like that. Most of all, I hate that he knows if he looks at me that way, I will cave in and let him have what he wants."


Let Slip the Dogs of War by Sara M. Barton is the first book in the Bard's Bed and Breakfast Mystery series.

Starring Bea (Beatrice) and her retired husband Ben (Benedick), we follow their adventures in running a B&B in Vermont. But not just any B&B. No this is an establishment that specifically caters to the CIA and a few others to keep the ruse up. A little history of the place then. The B&B was founded by Uncle Edward ( who used to work in the OSS as an intelligence officer). Now retired, he created the Bard's B&B (so named for his love of all things Shakespeare- in fact he used to work at the Bard's theatre as a dresser). You may have already noticed the Shakespeare references in the book titles, but we also see them in the form of quotes and as aliases for people in the book, as well as room names.

So, how did Bea and Ben come to take over? Well Uncle Edward needs a hip replacement and just couldn't take care of his guests anymore, while at the same time Bea and her bookshop, Marbury Books, were going through a whole heap of CIA mess. The CIA naturally thought of the perfect way to kill two birds with one stone.

The plot of this first instalment is terrorism. In fact, the second book's plot is terrorism too, so it may be a recurring theme. The first couple chapters are about the CIA, terrorism and explain how Bea got to where she is. Then one day, she finds a body under the bed (not her first apparently). The body is that of a young woman, who had her clothes removed and has two tattoos- one made with edible ink that is the image of a bee and one that is scented and shows the image of a rose. 

Ben and Bea figure it's a CIA code for something and the plot thickens as terrorists begin to show up, along with CIA spies. And who is the mysterious Yuri? 

This series reads like a cozy mystery, but this time with the added twist that the protagonists (and most everyone else) aren't exactly new to the game. The basic story is a little darker than your average cozy because of all of the terrorism involved. 

The plot itself is very fast-paced, A lot happens in this short book and I found it almost too fast-paced. There was never really any down time, you were constantly going from action scene to action scene, revelation to revelation. I don't often say this about a book, but it could have used a little extra padding. While too much can have a negative effect, a little goes a long way to helping the reader absorb all the information you give them, especially when throwing such fast-balls as this book does. 

I would've also liked a little more closure at the end. I don't know if the author plans to revisit that particular character, but the ending is pretty ambiguous and abrupt. But then I suppose it's a good thing that I want to know more. It's a mark of good writing if the reader wants more.

The relationship between Bea and Ben I can see some people loving and some people hating. They are constantly bickering and Bea seems forever annoyed with her husband. Their form of bickering is quoting Shakespeare at each other, which is at least nice to listen to (or read in this case), but it's so frequent that it can get a little grating sometimes. 

While I am not a great fan of unresolved endings, I did enjoy this short book. I found the characters of Yuri and Wardah to be my favourites and wanting to know what happens to each of them is enough to keep me reading. 

Disclaimer: I was sent this book by the author through a giveaway. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.

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