The Scent of Murder: Potential lost in the rush to romance

What is this about?: Jazz trains cadaver dogs, and on one such training session find a dead body — of a girl she once knew. She can’t quite let her find go, and begins to investigate.

What else is this about?: An introduction to Jazz, and setting the scene for the series.

Blurb

First in a new series from national bestselling author Kylie Logan, The Scent of Murder is a riveting mystery following Jazz Ramsey as she trains cadaver dogs.

The way Jazz Ramsey figures it, life is pretty good. She’s thirty-five years old and owns her own home in one of Cleveland’s most diverse, artsy, and interesting neighborhoods. She has a job she likes as an administrative assistant at an all-girls school, and a volunteer interest she’s passionate about—Jazz is a cadaver dog handler.

Jazz is working with Luther, a cadaver dog in training. Luther is still learning cadaver work, so Jazz is putting him through his paces at an abandoned building that will soon be turned into pricey condos. When Luther signals a find, Jazz is stunned to see the body of a young woman who is dressed in black and wearing the kind of make-up and jewelry that Jazz used to see on the Goth kids back in high school.

She’s even more shocked when she realizes that beneath the tattoos and the piercings and all that pale make up is a familiar face.

The lead detective on the case is an old lover, and the murdered woman is an old student. Jazz finds herself sucked into the case, obsessed with learning the truth.

The Scent of Murder has a lot going for it, and a lot I have issues with.

Jazz, for one, sounds like she’s all of 25, or maybe younger. I had actually forgotten the blurb said she was 35, and for the length of the audiobook I was listening to, really did think she was in her early 20s. It didn’t have anything to do with the choice of narrator, but rather the way the character was written.

Her naivete is startling, but I will say it actually also makes me want to see how she develops as a character given what else the book reveals about her. A character does note that Jazz lives quite a cloistered life as the world revolves around her dogs and the Catholic school where she works. It’s a broad statement, but not untrue.

While out training Luther, Jazz find the body of a young woman called Florie — someone who went to the school she works at. Jazz can’t quite let go of Florie, of finding her dressed in goth make up in a building where she shouldn’t have been. Florie was supposed to go on to greatness as a photographer after school, but instead as Jazz begins to investigate, she discovers that Florie’s life was not the one she presented to the school, and after school it changed dramatically.

It becomes clear early on that Jazz wants to do the right thing — that naivete from earlier makes that believable, and the acknowledgement that Jazz is living too cloistered a life is something else that makes me think the author knows this about her. Or so I hope.

Jazz’s links to training cadaver dogs, and this investigation make for fascinating potential in regards to her character, and it’s a journey I’d be willing to try.

But not with this particular love interest

Nick is a cop she broke up with a year ago because their lives and schedules just never meshed. He’s also a controlling douchebag.

His charm got me to the point he admitted to telling other guys who liked her that she was dating someone to keep them away from her. And then as much as she doesn’t want to date him again, he keeps asking her for another chance. And then gets pissy when she’s late to a date because she was investigating something about Florie. But she should be understanding when his work keeps him from being on time. She was in their relationship to an extent before they broke up, but there was only so much she could take (thankfully).

Right about then, his charm began to grate on my last nerve and I wanted him away from Jazz and her investigation. Oh, and it helped so much that her jerk brothers kept insisting she give Nick another chance. They were so insistent, that I began to wonder if Nick had gone to them to enlist their help to convince her to give him another chance because she kept shooting him down. Because he’s the type of stalker who would do that.

So. What keeps Nick from being present in her life and to date her? His work — understandable. But the desire to train a neighbourhood kid’s baseball team to the exclusion of all else in his life not so much. There’s a dash of an alcoholic mother in his past, coupled with the desire in him to save every kid in the neighbourhood from the same sort of life he had that was a bit too much like shoving his superhero-ness down my throat, to the point that I wondered if the point was to make readers actively consider Jazz as unreasonable in having a job and training cadaver dogs — something she was excellent at.

What I also didn’t like was that Jazz’s focus was on him for far too much of the book for my liking. She is far more interesting away from him, or with another sort of entanglement. Their ending in this book is open-ended and I fervently hope his ass gets transferred elswhere.

The distinct lack of Jazz working properly with cadaver dogs had me concerned here — she is training them, but not working with them even though she can. I want to see her develop as a character, as an accomplished woman in a strange but interesting field because I can see all the elements there that would make this series and Jazz so compelling to follow.

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