The Art of Vanishing (A Lila Maclean Academic Mystery)
By Cynthia Kuhn
Rating: 3/5 Stairs
Stonedale University is all set to have author Damon Von Tussel headline their Arts Week, except Damon is a hard man to track down. Lila Maclean is given the unwanted task of finding Damon and ensuring he is present for his events. In the meantime, the University starts receiving threatening letters, accidents begin to happen, and then a manuscript goes missing. Are they connected?
For me, there are two pieces that make up a good cozy. The first is the characters and the setting. A typical cozy takes place in a small town, providing a setting where you can have regular characters throughout the series, but also have new people appear to help drive the mystery. The second piece is the mystery itself – typically one character is an amateur sleuth. Often our sleuth has a personal connection to the victim or crime that drives them to look for clues and ultimately solve the mystery.
What Worked for Me
The Art of Vanishing has a great setting and characters. It’s set at a fictional University in Colorado, which is where I live – so that is really fun for me to read about. Most books I pick up that are set in the United States seem to be in New York or California. The University provides a nice backdrop for standard characters – professors, friends, even family – while setting the stage for other unknown characters to fit in as well.
I really liked the characters and their relationships. Lila is struggling a bit in her job – she feels the chancellor doesn’t like her and one of her fellow professors seems to try and sabotage Lila whenever she can. In addition to her work, Lila has two potential love interests (I liked Detective Lex myself), her cousin is a fellow professor and close friend, and her actress mother comes to town for a visit – all which help lighten the mood and make things interesting.
What Didn’t Work
Unfortunately, the second part of the cozy equation – a good mystery – was missing for me on this book. I should point out that it’s the second in the series, and there were a few references to the first book throughout, and it sounds like THAT mystery is a good one. (I’m going to read it.) The Art of Vanishing sets us up for a few mysteries that ultimately fell flat. A manuscript goes missing, and a character’s life is threatened, but our sleuth Lila doesn’t really go digging into either of these mysteries. Her main concern to help keep her job is to ensure that writer Damon Von Tussel shows up to his events sober and on time, and she doesn’t have much time for snooping out clues.
I think the resolution came on quite suddenly, and Lila was just as surprised as I was to hear the whodunit explanation. (Don’t get me wrong, Ms. Kuhn DID leave clues throughout, I just didn’t realize we were in solving mode.)
Overall, the setting and characters worked wonderfully, but in this outing the mystery fell flat for me. I do look forward to reading more of Lila and the rest of the Stonedale University crew.
Many thanks to NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.