Review by Flood Gondek

In The Scout Master, the fourth book in the Grace Marsden Cozy Noir series, Grace's husband, Harry, has recently found out he has a ten year old son. Picking the boy up from his scout troop's community cleaning project, a mystery is literally uncovered. The scouts find a World War II munitions crate containing carefully laid bones. Bringing more boys to the site that night to show them the curiosity, Grace is attacked by hooded assailants. Narrowly escaping, Grace embarks on a mystery that becomes more strange with each chapter. When Grace's new employer is found dead near the site, a homicide investigation leads to dangerous discoveries, and Grace slipping in and out of consciousness several times in near-misses with the bad guys, who are suspected of Satanic ritual and sacrifice.

What could be a fascinating mystery quickly becomes cluttered with family issues. Grace tries to find her place as a stepmother to a boy whose parents are committed to each other through him. Unbelievable plot twists drag the story behind: a brief flirtation with the occult and paranormal, bodies found on top of bodies and impossible coincidences. Beuhler consistently uses her heroine in an attempt to convince the reader that each uninteresting character holds some value, but falls short. Subplots don't ever sit long enough to engage the reader to care about the mystery, but the author can spend 8 pages (42-50) letting characters wake up and have breakfast, after just having survived a trauma - with little discussion about said trauma. Points of tension are explained in the narrative, rather than shown, never giving enough credit to the reader.

With focus, the novel could have been a captivating read, but the end result is far-fetched, asking the reader to suspend all belief and logic before getting to heart of the plot. With thirteen major points needing resolution (as listed by Grace halfway through the book) the reader simply hasn't the energy or the attention span to care what happens.


Flood Gondek interviews aspiring writers on her blog, FlashFlood and her work has appeared in Flashing in the Gutters.

Return to Fall 2006 Table of Contents

© 2006 SPINETINGLER Magazine - All rights reserved

Baby Love
If It Bleeds
Behind You!
No Help For The Dying
A Kind of Puritan
A Thankless Child
A Certain Malice