I’ve been a big fan of Christin Brecher’s since her debut novel, Murder’s No Votive Confidence. The series that that book kicks off upends the (culinary) cozy formula in the best possible way, and is a must-read for me. I’m not actually sure if she’ll be writing any more of that series tho, as her attention now seems to be on her newer Snapshots Of NYC novels, of which Photo Finished is the first. Not that I begrudge her the change of direction, as this book is a hoot from start to finish!
PF introduces Liv Spyers, the college dropout and aspiring photographer who’s set up her small studio (and apartment) in the basement of her grandparents’ key shop, where she also helps out from time to time. Sending her resume out to various photography agencies has gotten her exactly zero callbacks, but no one ever succeeded in New York City by giving up at the first setback. When Regina Montague — renowned celebrity photographer and the owner of one of the highly successful studios that passed on Liv’s resume — comes into the key shop one day and mentions needing a photographer for an imminent gig, Liv immediately recommends herself. Regina is desperate enough to give her a shot, telling her when and where to show up to photograph a society debutante’s ball.
Liv is excited to snag the gig, not only for the pay but for the in that a successful night will give her with Regina’s agency. There’s only one small problem: her really good camera is still in the possession of a cute guy she had an unfortunately literal run-in with while on the subway earlier. Second best will have to do, but in an even weirder twist of fate, the cute guy himself is one of the (adult) guests at the ball.
Bolstered by the thought of getting her best camera back soon, Liv plunges confidently into her work, but quickly discerns discord simmering beneath the fabulous facades put up by the glamorous guests. When someone is murdered, and Regina of all people becomes prime suspect, Liv is quickly convinced that she can help figure out who really dunnit, if only out of gratitude to the woman who took a chance on her.
As far as motives for sleuthing go, that isn’t a bad one, especially with the very realistic descriptions of Liv’s struggles to get hired and paid. It also helps that Liv has an uncanny eye for detail, and the sort of brazenness that allows her to poke her camera into interesting situations. I didn’t super love the evocation of the trust trope, mild as it was was here, but it was resolved in a satisfyingly healthy manner. Kudos too for the realistic use of the reward money at the end.
I was actually sent this book ages ago but another reviewer already had dibs on it for CriminalElement.com, so it was a pleasure to be able to read this right before the sequel, which just came out too! Watch for my review of Mugshots Of Manhattan over at CE soon.
Photo Finished by Christin Brecher was published October 25 2022 by Kensington Books and is available from all good booksellers, including