I like mystery novels; in fact, before I dived deep into the realm of fantasy, I inhaled mystery novels like you wouldn’t believe. I still try to read as many as I can, interspersed with books about dragons of course. In Mint Condition by Margie Ortega definitely tickled my fancy, being a cozy mystery with a bit of darkness to it.
1. Thoughts on the plot
This book is actually the third book in the series, and while I really hate starting a series in the middle, this read relatively like a standalone. It follows Maggie, who is dealing with some past trauma, as she navigates the world of estate sales and antiquing-for-profit. On her trip to get a jar appraised, she discovers a dead body. Only, she knows this man; it’s her former abuser. Desperate to not paint herself as a suspect, Maggie has to solve the mystery, which deals with antiques, crime, and a whole slew of suspects.
Now, there were definitely some moments where I felt like I was missing things likely mentioned in previous books, but on the whole I was able to piece together past experiences and character relationships quite well. The mystery itself was pretty straightforward, though some of the extra criminal connections felt as though they were thrown in to make the crime more dastardly. The interesting piece for me, though, was more to do with the characters than the mystery.
2. Thoughts on the characters
I like Maggie. She is doing her best to get over her past trauma and live a good life with her kids and boyfriend. She has spunk and definitely rushes into danger without looking both ways, but I think that’s what makes her entertaining. I do wish that some of the relationships were delved into a bit more; they felt a little surface level. (However, this could be a product of me not having read the first books, where the relationships were explored more, leaving this book to display them as a matter of fact, not exploration.) Her relationship with Jane is especially interesting to read.
3. Favourite part
I think, and this sounds quite terrible, but Maggie’s past and her ability to overcome it is perhaps my favourite part. It’s what made her feel almost real, rather than a character on the page. The rest of the time, her actions didn’t quite match up with what I would expect a person to do (such as rushing into danger rather than away from it) but that particular piece of character development worked very well.
I would say that the actual mystery was a bit generic. The suspects were a little obvious, and the clues weren’t arrayed neatly throughout the story but mostly thrown in near the end. It probably could have been solved much earlier if Maggie would have actually talked to the police (her boyfriend is a police officer, so this makes it doubly confusing) before rushing into her own investigation. There were also threads of investigation that were just abandoned as soon as something else happened (specifically with Diana), which is actually the most realistic part, but didn’t really fit well into the story.
Overall, I would say that In Mint Condition was an entertaining cozy mystery, but that it had more character than mystery. I would say that this was a good book.