My Rating: 3 stars
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Age Category: Adult
Type of romance: MM
In a trendy Salt Lake City, Utah, neighborhood, Ben Rosencrantz’s board game shop has become a community hotspot for players of all ages—and for killer collectors.
Back in his hometown of Sugar House, running his family’s board game shop and café, Ben Rosencrantz just can’t seem to get his life to pass go, much less collect $200. Once he was a happily married English professor in Seattle. Now he’s a divorced caregiver, looking after his ill father and a Chihuahua named Beans while still figuring out the rules of retail management. At least the town has become more LGBTQ+ friendly than when Ben was a teenager—and that flower shop owner, Ezra McCaslin, enjoys flirting with him.
But despite his usual clientele of gamers, Ben is barely earning enough to keep the store running and stay on top of his father’s medical bills. Then a local toy and game collector named Clive offers him a winning strategy—to purchase a turn-of-the-twentieth-century edition of The Landlord’s Game, the realty and taxation game that inspired Monopoly, at a tenth of the rare edition’s true value. Suspicious of Clive’s shady, low-priced deal, Ben turns the offer down.
Then Clive turns up dead at the front door of Ben’s shop and a backpack full of $100 bills appears on his doorstep. Now Ben is the #1 suspect in Clive’s death, and unless he and Ezra can prove his innocence and find the real killer, he’ll go to jail for murder—and no amount of double dice rolls will set him free . . .
I received a free copy from the publisher through Edelweiss and voluntarily reviewed it.
I was so excited for this book as it not only featured a board game shop, but also a gay main character. This book sounded like it would be great and I was really eager to start reading it. Unfortunately I struggled a bit with this book and I feel so sad I didn’t enjoy it more.
Board to Death follows Ben who just returned to his home town after a divorce and quitting his job as a professor to help his dad with running the board game. A pretty typical set up for a cozy mystery, but it didn’t feel as cozy and uplifting here. And in my current mood that was exactly what I was looking for and one of the main things that I struggled with in this book. The tone felt more serious, tense and sad than uplifting and cozy to me.
Ben isn’t doing well, he’s anxious and worries a lot, his dad is ill and not doing well and the board game shop is not doing well as it doesn’t have enough customers. It just felt like a lot more worries, sad things and anxiety than I was looking for. There also wasn’t as much about the board game shop and I had really wanted to get a feel for the cozy shop and read about it and there just wasn’t as much about it. And the scenes that did take place there just illustrated how badly it was doing and made me feel sad instead of cozy.
The focus was mostly on the mystery, but that also didn’t really grab me. It starts with Ben finding the body of a collector who hours earlier tried to sell him a collector edition board game for cheap. Ben and his friend and love interest Ezra then get involved in solving the mystery as they think Ben is the main suspect. I wasn’t sure why they thought this as I thought Ben had a pretty solid alibi as he was literally around other people when the murder occurred and he didn’t really have a motive, the police chief also never suggest he is a main suspect. It just bothered me as I didn’t get why they thought he was the main suspect. The progression of the mystery and how things progressed felt a bit off, but that might be because it didn’t feel the standard progression. I don’t want to say more for spoilers, but it just didn’t feel as engaging to me and didn’t keep me guessing. There were some interesting developments toward the end of the mystery, but it felt like I missed something as I thought the motive of the killer was a bit strange.
While the characters weren’t unlikable, I never really started caring about them. And that made it even harder to keep invested in the story. I liked the set-up for Ben and Ezra’s romance, but then didn’t really feel their romance as they grew closer. They just seemed sad about the circumstances that brought them closer and I just didn’t really feel their connection.
To summarize: I really wanted to like this book, but I ended up struggling through it. The tone didn’t feel as cozy as I had hoped and I there wasn’t as much about the board game shop. Ben is not doing well, his father is ill and the board game shop isn’t doing well, it just made this story feel more somber than I had expected for a cozy mystery. The mystery was okay, but didn’t fully keep my attention and it bothered me a bit how some things didn’t make sense. The progression felt a bit off and didn’t keep my attention. There were some interesting bits surrounding the victim, but I thought the motive of the killer felt a bit off. This book has a great premise, but unfortunately it just didn’t work for me.