Murder, She edited by Kaitlyn Dunnett

Kaitlyn Dunnett’s Murder, she edited is the latest book in the Deadly Edits series. In this mystery, freelance editor Mikki Lincoln must get her facts straight about an old murder at the site of her dilapidated property outside the sleepy Lenape Hollow, New York, – before the killer returns to meet the next deadline!

A lawyer surprises our heroine, Septuagenarian Mikki Lincoln, with news that an old family friend has recently passed away, and bequeaths her an agricultural property a short distance from her own Lenape Hollow, New York home. Literally old: Tessa Swarthout was a friend of Mickey’s mother and died at the mature age of 102 years. Mikki is flattered to be remembered until she learns that there is a catch. In order to preserve her inheritance, she must polish and publish certain diaries she finds on the property within one month of being notified of the inheritance.

This is right up to Mickey’s professional alley. As a freelance editor, she knows all about taking a script and getting it ready for marketing, even in a very short amount of time. What less her forte is to find out exactly where the diaries are given the absurd lack of clues that Tessa has left her. Mikki loves a mystery, but it would be a challenge even for a much younger woman to walk through a rustic farmhouse and outbuilding with a nice comb.

Fortunately, she has several young people in her career who are happy to help with the exhausting physical work of searching for the elusive diaries. However, it is her cousin Luke who asks the obvious question after a visit to the rather dilapidated property: is all this work worth it?

Tessa’s family farm was a relic of another century. Correcting it to the point where someone could actually live there would not be cheap. At the very least, all wiring and plumbing should be brought up to code.

I have the best reasons to know how expensive such upgrades are. Paying to have similar work done on my house was the reason I had to start another career during what was to be my retirement.

But does not look for the diaries? Ignore the mysteries Tessa had left behind? Impossible!

This never-say-die attitude drives Mikki’s quest to find the diaries and in the process of solving a cold case that had obviously haunted the poor Tessa, to the point of forcing the older woman to give up the farm in the first place. Unfortunately, the same perseverance is shared by an obsessive reader who blames Mikki for styles that were shown in a beloved author’s latest book. Mikki had done a service beta by reading a manuscript to a friend who writes under the nominee Illyria Dubonnet. In return, Illyria credited Mikki’s new editing business in the afterword.

None of them had expected that this innocent exchange of professional courtesies would arouse the anger of Bella Trent, a superfan who not only blames Mikki for “destroying” the book, but also expects Mikki to introduce her to Illyria to compensate for the alleged infringement. Mikki does not intend to invade Illyria’s privacy in this way, but Bella has no such concerns and constantly calls Mikki to leave long, wandering answering machines about her demands on Mikki’s visiting friend Darlene:

“Who in the world was that?” she asked after Bella had hung up.

I gave her the edited version. I did not reveal Illyria Dubonnet’s secret identity, and I ruled out the fact that I had called Bella’s officers the one time she came to my house.

“She sounds … unstable.”

I pulled Darlene’s concern away. “It’s no problem. If she does not get an answer, she will eventually get tired of bothering me, and that will be it.”

I had, as they say, but known.

Nothing goes quite as Mikki expects, neither in dealing with her stalker nor securing her legacy, especially after Mikki finds disturbing evidence that relates not only to the cold case but also far more recent criminal activity at the site of the once abandoned farm. Will her friendships and quick humor help implement her, or will she fall victim to one of the malicious forces converging on her through no fault of her own?

It’s refreshing to read the exploits of an older heroine who inadvertently solves cases while working her second career as an editor with plenty of insight into the book industry all the time as well as a useful selection of style and grammar tips at the end. It was also interesting to see how Mikkis and my opinions differed. Like Darlene, I certainly found Bella a far more serious threat than Mikki did. I am also convinced that protest and boycott are as much an aspect of freedom of speech as a business owner’s right to speak out, no matter how much Mikki complains. After all, freedom of speech does not mean freedom from criticism. For the most part, Mickey’s acrobatic stance is stronger, though it occasionally leads her into trouble. Entertaining issues, to be sure, which is exactly what mystery readers want from a modern cozy series like this.

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