For Chris and Pamela Cross, watching their restaurant burn down seems like a low point in their lives. Everything starts looking up when they purchase a new building for a second chance at a 40's themed restaurant, but the happy feeling only lasts until they find a body in the basement of the new building. Their only relief is that the body has been there for a while, since the 1940's to be exact. Their new venture seemed marked for failure, but soon, getting the restaurant off the ground takes a back seat to solving the mystery of the body in the basement.
The mystery of who was killed in their basement and why becomes the main focus of Chris and Pamela's life. The book opens up with the fire at their old restaurant, which was a strong beginning, but the action slowed down considerably after that. The mystery itself was interesting. I found no plot holes. The twist was very good, and one I didn't expect. The clues were good, but the pacing was a bit slow for me. I felt like the story progressed by having events (such as a clue presented) with filler in between these events.
There were certain things that slowed down the story. I'm not sure how many times the characters got In-N-Out burgers, but there the meals they ate was focused on quite often and slowed down the narrative. There were also lengthy bits of description - like touring the new building - where it also slowed things down. Chris and Pamela have a son, but he wasn't as much of the story as I had hoped. When the characters needed some down time, the son was brought in, but otherwise he was handed off to the neighbor. He was an interesting kid and I wish he had played a bigger role.
The characters themselves were hard for me to connect with at times. I was surprised by this because I love old movies and actors - Bogart included - but the characters in this felt like too much of "characters." The dialog was not as natural as it could have been. I am very critical of dialog in fiction, and the language used in this book often had a formal tone to their speaking which didn't match the characters and kept them at a distance. I cannot tell you how many times Chris "curled his upper lip under," but after a couple dozens times it really got on my nerves. Regardless of the fact that it was a trademark expression of Bogart's, it was overused here.
There was also an issue of the backstory not being explained. Bogey Nights is the first book in the "Bogey Man Series," but it's not the first time Chris Cross has been involved in a murder. Throughout the book there are references made to "the murder Pamela and Chris were involved in the year before." I thought it was odd that there was a whole other murder these two characters had been involved with given that this was the first book in the series, but I supposed it would be explained at some point. It wasn't. The only way you're going to know what happened in this previous murder is if you read "The Bogey Man," a book from McGraw's "Sandi Webster Series." I'm not against branching off a series to start a new one, but the details either need to be explained, or not referenced at all.
Overall, the mystery was interesting, but the pacing and dialog did hold it back.
Would I recommend this book? If you are looking for is a causal mystery, you may enjoy it. It was a good casual read.
Who would I recommend this book to? Light mystery readers. It's a book you could read a bit and come back to later when you have a few moments, but for me it wasn't one that sucked me in.
Bogey Nights is available now from Amazon in Paperback and Ebook, Barnes and Noble, Fictionwise, and Books-A-Million.