Desert Isle Keeper
The Frame-Up is the first book in Meghan Scott Molin’s brand new series of mysteries about an on-the-edge comic book writer who falls in love with a straight-laced cop – and the series of comic-based murders that binds them together.
Michael-Grace – MG – Martin is a somewhat brusque geek, comic book writer, costume designer and genre aficionado who knows more about variant covers than homicide. She spends her days yearning to write for The Hooded Falcon, the comic book that saved MG’s life in her youth. Editor Casey Edwards Junior constantly rejects her ideas, then accepts them, rephrased, from male colleagues. MG doesn’t know that she’s about to be swept up in mystery and intrigue herself when she realizes, while waiting in line at a coffee shot, that a bronze age scene from The Hooded Falcon has been replicated at the scene of a recent murder.
When her remarks are overheard by a detective who happens to be working the case, the man – whom she dubs Officer Herbal Tea due to his beverage of choice and officious attitude but whose real name is Matteo Kildare – proves to be both handsome, annoying, and severely tempting to her after her last boyfriend used to her leverage YouTube hits. It turns out that Matteo is much more bashful and awkward than she knows, and is completely out of his element when it comes to her geekery – and MG is his only hope of blending in with the nerd world for long enough to solve a string of crimes tied to the White Rabbit drug ring. MG soon finds herself ensnared in the case, as clues pile up and lead back to the death of Casey Edwards Senior – long thought to have died of a heart attack. When the note left at the first scene links back to MG’s place of work, she starts wondering if she knows the identity of the killer. The mystery steadily gets more complex, leaving the reader to wonder – what does this would-be vigilante – dubbed the Golden Arrow by the public – want? Is he tied to the White Rabbit drug ring? Are the staged murders covering for something more sinister? And Will MG get a handle on her feelings for Matteo and keep her nerd tribe safe before the situation gets out of hand?
MG is an engaging heroine and The Frame Up is a great little mystery, one that’s easy enough to grasp even if you’re not a nerd with comics cred.
MG and Matteo each shine for different reasons, and the supporting characters really work. MG has a great circle of friends in her life; Lawrence, called L, her drag-queen best friend for whom she designs costumes; Ryan, her video-game obsessed friend and roommate, who understands her well but whom she can’t bring herself to feel for romantically, and her corgi Trogdor (nicknamed Trog). Compare this to lonely Matteo, who drives a Prius, sips tea, and whose utter cluelessness about MG’s geekiness is a lot of fun (he has no idea what a TARDIS is and thinks MG might be British, what with her love for Doctor Who and her corgi). They give good banter to one another, and are frustratingly struck by lousy timing in a way that really works to build romantic tension.
Thematically, The Frame-Up doesn’t skimp on the frustrating sexism MG experiences in her job, and it doesn’t ignore the annoying parts of being a female nerd. Molin also does an excellent job capturing the diversity of life in nerd culture. On top of it all, everyone’s harboring a secret that hovers temptingly just out of MG’s reach, and those are revealed slowly and will likely be well-used in further volumes of the series.
The mystery itself is decently paced, and builds nicely, although by the end, it’s clear that there are overarching threads that leave the audience waiting for a solution that – in one case – doesn’t arrive (the one reason this is getting an A-). One of the mysteries is left dangling – presumably for future instalments – but overall, The Frame-Up is one good, fun, funny book.