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The Case of Billy's Missing Gun*

Missing Gun Plays Second (or Third) Fiddle

Private investigator Lucy James has had a few cases, but not a lot of money is coming in. A man hires her to try to track down a missing gun, which he states belonged to Billy the Kid. Lucy’s dad gets fired from his job as a children’s television show presenter. Lucy’s best friend is getting married and involves Lucy in the planning. Lucy’s on-again-off-again boyfriend shows up as well.

Will Lucy find the missing gun? Will it be Billy the Kid’s gun? What will her father do about his job? What other people and events will keep Lucy from focusing on her career?

Unfortunately, this book is more cozy than mystery with all the peripheral events going on in Lucy’s life that seem to take precedence over her job of finding the gun. I think sometimes it is hard for cozy mysteries to balance both aspects of the genre. I would have liked to have seen the more action and conflict in general and more about the gun that’s mentioned in the title specifically. Instead, the book seems to focus more on Lucy’s private life with all that is going on with her father, her friend, and her boyfriend.

The book has more than the typical number of issues with grammar, punctuation, and usage. Commas seem to be specifically problematic, as they were always missing around the coordinating conjunction that joins two independent clauses in a compound sentence. The use of hyphens did not follow standard usage rules. The book was rife with false subject and impersonal passive sentence constructions. There was awkward phrasing as well (“My open mouth closed and frowned”), and an over-reliance on certain pet words like *smirk*. Smirk and sneer are two words that I think are overused in fiction, and they were overused here; once, both were used in the same sentence!

The book was also a strange combination of narrative prose and dialogue in a couple of different ways. It is a pitfall of first-person perspective that there can be long narrative prose passages without any breaks of short paragraphs or dialogue. Yet, there were some sections of the narrative prose were too choppy, with a lot of single line paragraphs or short paragraphs in a row. These alternating issues with narrative prose happened often in this book, which made it more difficult to read. The dialogue sections had the latter problem as well. These sections were often just line after line of short back-and-forth between characters. Also, there didn’t seem to be much to distinguish the speech between different characters.