Retirement Can Be Murder by Susan Santangelo

By Ekta R. Garg

September 30, 2015

Rated: Bypass it

After hearing her husband declare his intentions to retire, a woman introduces him to a retirement coach. When the coach dies under mysterious circumstances, the woman’s husband becomes a suspect in the death and she realizes she’ll need to marshal all of her resources to clear his name. Susan Santangelo does her best to pack intrigue and humor in the lukewarm cozy mystery Retirement Can Be Murder.

Carol Andrews dreads the “R” word. She doesn’t want her husband to think, talk, or even breathe retirement. She values her freedom too much. But Jim has become disgruntled with his job where a “youngster” has become his boss, and Jim is close to hitting his limit.

She discusses it with her friends over lunch one day, and one of them mentions a retirement coach. Carol Googles the term and discovers a retirement coach not far from her Connecticut home. After a little bit of cajoling, she convinces Jim to go meet Davis Rhodes, retirement coach extraordinaire.

Jim doesn’t hesitate to share his full-blown skepticism, but by the end of the meeting he’s sold on the idea. Just not in the way Carol expects. Jim decides he will help Rhodes launch a major PR campaign for Rhodes’ business, which Jim is sure will make his too-young boss realize how valuable he is to the office. Carol doesn’t know what to make of this turn of events but decides just to live with it…until the day Jim goes to meet Rhodes and finds him dead.

The police get involved, and soon enough a lack of evidence pointing anywhere else means Jim becomes a person of interest in the case. Carol is racked with guilt. If she hadn’t twisted Jim’s arm to go see Rhodes in the first place, he wouldn’t be under suspicion. She decides she’ll do whatever she can to solve the case, and her three best friends all pitch in to help.

Author Susan Santangelo has positioned Retirement Can Be Murder as the first in a series for the baby boomer generation, dealing with the challenges and life issues that section of society faces. Unfortunately the book fails to keep the reader engaged, despite its overt dedication to its genre. Santangelo keeps the mystery close at hand, but readers may find its resolution a little hard to buy and ultimately unsatisfying as a conclusion.

The way main character Carol keeps referring to Jim as “my beloved” may seem cute the first few times, but the repetitive use of the term of endearment becomes distracting and then maddening after the first few chapters. What makes the words even more ironic is that Jim is in no way, shape, or form a likeable character.

Although the police suspect him of foul play, readers will find it impossible to sympathize with Jim. In every scene he appears, Jim disagrees with or degrades his wife. At some point readers may start to wonder why Carol wants to save him, if only for the fact that if Jim goes to prison Carol gets to keep her freedom and escape from his abrasive behavior in one fell swoop.

An engaging mystery often hinges on a smart, intuitive protagonist. Carol, however, comes to the entire problem of finding the murderer with bumbling efforts, lies, and a lot of serendipitous moments that allow the right information at the right time to just drop into her lap. For the most part, Carol appears neither intuitive nor particularly savvy in matters of crime solving. Does she solve the crime before the police? Yes. Could someone in her community trust her to solve another murder? Not so much.

Santangelo’s observations, jokes, and quotes about retirement will definitely evoke laughter from readers, but these short tidbits hardly manage to save the story. I recommend readers Bypass Retirement Can Be Murder.