3 out of 4 stars
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Expired Listings by D.M. Barr is a romantic mystery novel with a naughty twist.
In the wealthy town of Rock Canyon, in the Hudson Valley area, someone is murdering Realtors. The police don’t seem to care and most of the other Realtors can’t wait for a chance to gain the clients of the deceased. Dana Black is one of the few concerned. She is a Realtor with a BDSM fetish and a traumatic past giving her occasional blackouts. Not only does she lack an alibi thanks to her unreliable(but very exciting) partner Dare, who she was with around the time of the murders, her blackouts mean she’s not entirely sure she didn’t kill those people. To make matters more complicated, the handsome detective Aidan Cummings is finding Dana to be a person of interest in more than one way.
The book was a little slow to start but I actually read the last fourth in one sitting. The action and the intrigue got really good and the relationships became very compelling. While I was able to foresee some of the twists, I was still surprised at a few and I enjoyed those surprises. It’s a pretty good mystery that makes many people seem suspicious so you’re never quite sure if you’ve pegged the right person or not until the end.
One of the main conflicts in this book is the contrast between the rest of Dana’s life and her BDSM(Bondage, Dominance/Discipline, Sadomasochism/Submission, Masochism) fetish life. In the beginning, these are considered very separate worlds but she slowly reconciles these two lives. I thought the book painted a very fair picture of the BDSM scene. It didn’t represent the scene as bad or good, just full of people that could be either. I enjoyed this take on something that is often represented as strange and taboo.
I guess my main complaint plot-wise is that Dana constantly withholds information from people out of fear or unwillingness to talk about things. This was most frustrating when she was talking to her therapist and wouldn’t bring up her fetish. The therapist probably has heard about far worse and is sworn to secrecy, it just didn’t make sense. Similarly, she refuses to tell the detective she was with her lover at first when she could have easily just said she was unsure if her lover would back up her alibi. I know this is a common trope in fiction but it’s always frustrating as a reader when problems are caused simply by poor communication.
While the book has a crafty mastery of puns, it did have some issues of the wrong phrasing such as “creating writing” instead of creative. These weren’t too common but I noted them often enough for it to be a little distracting. I also found a chapter towards the end, that suddenly switches to Dana’s first person point-of-view when all chapters from her view had previously been third person, to be rather jarring and confusing. In light of that, I’d give this book 3 out of 4 stars. I would not recommend this for someone that is squeamish about things like pouring hot wax on a person or someone being whipped, and obviously this book is not for anyone under the age of 18, but if you’re a fan of mysteries or intrigued by the BDSM scene, it’s probably worth a read.
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