Review: Gumption & Gumshoes

Gumption & Gumshoes
Gumption & Gumshoes by Alex Kidwell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was one of those books that starts off really strong, so strong that it carries the book when the second half drops off entirely. I’d be interested in reading more books about these characters as long as the focus is on the cases they’re trying to solve and less about the relationship. The strengths of the story are the fun characters, the shapeshifting to a chinchilla, the bumbling antics that actually solve a case, and the sly wink at private detectives in general. I think this author really gets the heart of the character she was portraying and it makes me buy into the humor. It helped smooth over the second half of the book when the tension disappears, the sex scenes take over, and instant love rules the day.

August is a chubby, video-loving old soul that always dreamed of being an old time detective. When an unexpected inheritance gives him the opportunity to live his dreams, he rents a small office and tries to make it work. He hasn’t been hugely successful just yet but he’s always managed to make rent, much to his landlord, Sam’s, relief. Sam finds August attractive and adorable and the sparks fly pretty quickly between the two when August’s latest case entangles Sam. Together the two find love while solving August’s first big case on his journey to being a real private eye.

The plot is half mystery and half romance. The first part of the book deals with setting up the characters, their involvement and the mystery. This is where the book really shines. August, whose narration is first person, is truly relatable and adorable and I loved just about everything about him. He’s probably too old to be lingering with some of his habits but I could easily see why he clung to them. He makes a ton of mistakes but I found that part of his charm, just as much as his rambling and clumsy behavior. Oh and his dinosaur sheets. August’s character is what pulled me into the book and the mystery component is what kept me reading. Sam, whose narration is third person, was a decent character and filled out but he never stood out to me as much as August.

The mystery case is simplistic but I didn’t mind too much. I liked the setup and August’s poking around for clues. I liked how his shapeshifting was incorporated and helped his detective work. This element is cute and fun, although it takes some suspension of disbelief. The way he changes (clothes, items etc included) makes everything really easy for August and I would have liked to see a few more challenges thrown in. This is also because the mystery is solved in a simple and direct way without any real problems. I would have thought August would experience a few more dead ends and wrong turns on the way to solving it.

Easy is the correct term to characterize the relationship between Sam and August as well. They are attracted to each other, act on that attraction, have A LOT of sex together and declare their everlasting love for each other within hours. There are a few perfunctory sentences thrown in about August’s lack of confidence and Sam’s lingering bitterness from his divorce but really there are no obstacles or problems to their relationship. They fall in love quickly and happily. I didn’t necessarily need the two to face huge difficulties on the way to happiness but in conjunction with the lack of tension from the mystery portion, it was really easy to get bored during this half of the book. Not much really happened. August and Sam fall in love and go about their daily chores, August solves the case, the two plan a future.

It’s nice and romantic, but slides into mundane and somewhat boring. August’s charm helped me keep going with the book, though I kept expecting something to happen each scene. Then nothing would. It wasn’t enough to make me give up on the book and in fact I liked it despite this slow recitation of life. However I hope any future books with these two characters focus more on the mystery and I hope it’s more interesting than this one was.

Overall it really hit the spot for a cute, fun detective book. The writing is engaging and I liked the feeling that the author wrote with a sly wit, as if bringing the reader in on the joke. I’ve never read this author before but I’m going to investigate her backlist. I’d recommend this but know going in that it slows down considerably in the second half. It didn’t deter me but it may deter other readers.

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3 thoughts on “Review: Gumption & Gumshoes

  1. Tam says:

    I believe I bought this one solely for the cover. 🙂 When I’m in the mood for a light mystery I’ll have to pull it up.

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