Having survived an abusive husband, Megan and her daughter Sally move into a house on the Greenly ranch. In exchange, Megan offers to clean out a cabin on the ranch and finds herself embroiled in a decades-old mystery. Her already shaky relationship with lawyer Mark Greenly becomes even more tentative as Megan investigates the questions surrounding Mark’s mother’s death. When a dangerous stalker threatens not only Megan but also her daughter, Megan must make some difficult choices.
Theme of the Book
Despite its title, Death by Poison is actually a book about survival and about the healing power of love. Megan survives a horrific situation and with the constant love and support of friends and family is able to start a new life. Like the first book in the series, this one deals with abusive relationships and the physical and psychological damage they can cause.
What I Liked About the Story
Death by Poison is the second book in a series of cozy mysteries involving the Nova girls. It follows Ding Dong! Is She Dead? and involves the same cast of characters. This second book is much better than its predecessor. First, there is actually a mystery in Death by Poison. In fact, there are two mysteries: one involves the apparent suicide of Mark’s mother and the second concerns Megan herself. The mystery plot is much more interesting to read and the tension climbs throughout the book to a surprising climax. There is still an element of romance with the relationships between Megan and Mark and between Allie and Justin, but the romance does not overpower the mystery.
The book centers on Megan whose character has been more fully developed in this story. Megan, having escaped an abusive marriage, is more confident but has not completely overcome her fears and insecurities. She has become a complex character and not simply a victim. This is a vast improvement from the first volume in the series in which Megan was portrayed as essentially helpless.
Ms. Morgan has done an excellent job in building tension throughout the book. Because Megan is still unsure of herself in terms of relationships, she is leery of Mark. This leads the reader to also have doubts about Mark’s motives and keeps us wondering what will happen next. Megan thinks Mark is too good to be true, and as is often the case in such a situation, believes that there is something wrong with him. Without inserting spoilers, I can only tell readers that there is a resolution to this conflict.
What I Didn’t Like About the Story
Ms. Morgan has painted the Greenly family as heavenly saints. It is amazing that, in such a large and extended family, there are so few conflicts. We do find one black sheep, but the family itself is unbelievably happy and united. Why are there no arguments? No spats? No simple disagreements? It would certainly have made the family more human.
There are also one or two plot points in Death by Poison that seem quite odd. The main one concerns Mike, Megan’s late abusive husband. Without giving away main points in the story, I can’t really say more about Mike’s activities. I will say that the inspiration that allowed Megan to connect Mike’s past with the mystery she is investigating seemed to come out of the blue. I, personally, found it hard to see how she reached her conclusion. I can understand why the author felt she needed to connect events in the previous book to this one, but I feel she had done that sufficiently well by developing Megan’s character.
In Death by Poison, Ms. Morgan has again combined elements of mystery and romance. She has done a much better job of it than in her previous book. It will be interesting to see what she writes next.