Death of a Bookseller by Alice Slater – Book Review!

Roach – bookseller, loner and true crime obsessive – is not interested in making friends. She has all the company she needs in her serial killer books, murder podcasts and her pet snail, Bleep.

That is, until Laura joins the bookshop.

Smelling of roses, with her cute literary tote bags and beautiful poetry, she’s everyone’s new favourite bookseller. But beneath the shiny veneer, Roach senses a darkness within Laura, the same darkness Roach possesses.

As Roach’s curiosity blooms into morbid obsession, it becomes clear that she is prepared to infiltrate Laura’s life at any cost.

I buddy read this book with Susan over at Novel Lives (review) & we were both excited by the potential but, unfortunately, despite the story building and building it didn’t really go anywhere and left us both pretty disappointed.

The story alternates between the POV’s of Roach and Laura. Roach a bookseller at the Walthamstow branch lives a lonely life, her time spent between work, looking after her pet snail and devouring any true crime novel she can get her hands on. She’s the sort of person who goes ott in their fascination, the person just that little too interested in the details, the person who takes more interest in the person committing the crimes than the victims who inevitably get forgotten about…. she’s basically a psychopath, but we only see the truly dark side of her start to come out when she meets Laura. Laura is everyone’s favourite bookseller. She reads all the bestsellers and would love nothing more than spending time with customers making sure they leave the shop with the perfect book. But she also carries a dark secret, a secret that she only shares with those she trusts, and Roach would certainly not fit into that category. She isn’t a good person, in fact she is incredibly complicated and not at all likeable throughout the story.

The characters were one part of the story that really shone for me. Slater’s ability to make us question who the real ‘bad guy’ was is truly well done. We know that Roach is a psychopath, she has an obsession with Laura that goes beyond the normal, and we know that nothing good will come from it. But Laura is a bitch, in so many ways. She’s entitled, likes getting her own way and living beyond her means, blaming the world when things don’t go her way. There are a multitude of side characters, but they were all a little meh for my liking, none played a pivotal role in the story and, despite how much page time they got, I didn’t feel they were developed as well as they could be.

I’m spending a lot of time talking about the characters because Slater takes up the majority of the book talking about them, allowing us insights into their minds, their wants and needs, their histories, and through them she builds this sense of anticipation that something will happen… a feeling that never really panned out for me. Don’t get me wrong, something big does happen at the end, but did I feel that it was worthy of all the build up, absolutely not. Throughout our buddy read, both Susan and I said that the ending would make or break this book, you couldn’t spend that much time on your characters and to give us a half arsed ending, but that’s exactly what we got. Could it have been the perfect ending of the first book in a duology, possibly, but I’m not sure I would have picked up the second book even if it was. Instead it built and built and built to nothing basically and just made me feel like the effort put into the first 80% of the book was wasted.

I can’t mention so much about this book because of spoilers, but suffice to say it didn’t break the mold in anyway. I did enjoy Slaters writing style, it had an intensity and almost lure to it that managed to keep me hooked, despite nothing actually happening in the story. There are a couple of twists, but this book just felt predictable and not in the good way. I will say that I didn’t see the ending coming, I think it was meant to be menacing, to leave us a little unsure after finishing but it was a little too open for my liking, especially for this kind of book, and kind of allowed our characters to get away with, almost absolving them, of their actions throughout the story.

This is a story of the dangers of obsession, and for those who like a heavily character driven story with little to no plot, this is certainly your read. But for those who need at least a little plot to their stories, despite how well the MC’s are written, you might be a little disappointed.

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