I "bought" a copy of Artful Dodger by Nageeba Davis from Amazon.com.au and this is just my honest opinion on it.
Maggie Kean is an artist and she teaches art at the elementary school nearby. Yet, one morning, she comes across a dead body. It turns out that it was one of her neighbours, an Elizabeth Boyer who had taken a great interest in Maggie's work. Soon enough, there are police and Maggie finds she's a suspect in the murder.
The characters are very poorly written. The author relies on very stereotypical character types to run the story. Quite simply, we're meant to hate the Boyer grandchildren because the author tells us that they're trust fund babies and spend a lot of money on cloths. We're meant to like and sympathise with Maggie just because she's the protagonist, and despite the fact that she's pretty nasty to everyone she meets- including her supposed love interest. We're meant to think that Villari and Maggie will be a good couple together; just because they met and flirt a few times, despite that he's trying to conduct an investigation where Maggie is a suspect and he's being completely inappropriate towards her. As for the other characters... Lisa is pretty cliché as well. Her introduction to the novel was a complete surprise, too. She just appears one chapter and she's apparently Maggie's best friend, yet the girl never mentioned her before and barely thinks about her in other portions. Quite simply, Lisa is the stereotype that constantly thinks about sex and encourages Maggie into the relationship with Villari just because she thinks it would be a good thing. Villari's family are stereotypical in that they're just the view of Italians that the author has set their mind on; that every Italian has a big family with a mother who only makes pasta all day and each night they have feasts of food.
I'll start my character introductions with Maggie. She's a tomboy and artist. Which is odd because Detective Villari makes a comment that she doesn't look like an artist...? Everyone can be an artist and there's no real defined "look" to one, so that part just seems ridiculous. The author was essentially trying to make a point that Maggie wears baggy clothes. My first thought of Maggie is that she's pretty disrespectful. To everyone she meets. She's mocking and judgement of every single person she comes across. Later on, she begins a mini investigation of her own. Yet, she has no real reason to do so. She is resentful that Detective Villari suspects her of anything (despite that it is just his job) and it's ironic because she then gives him more reason to suspect her by beginning her own investigation. Mind you, she seems like she's pretty bad at it. Essentially, she just steals an appointment book from the victim and then goes to harass some poor woman, even trying to force herself into the lady's house. Which is weird because later on, that lady makes a comment that Maggie is "easy to love", which makes no sense because she tried to force herself into your home...?
As for the grandchildren of the victim, Cassandra and Preston Boyer... I felt like Maggie's introduction of Preston Boyer was ridiculous, especially her claiming that hates her almost as much as if she had caused his parents' death. She's pretty negative towards him and labelling him as if he's a really bad person, just because she doesn't know or understand him. Claims he has few friends and that everyone dislikes him, but she wouldn't know because she tries to avoid him at every twist and turn. I can certainly understand his feelings of the situation when he turned up at the scene. Picture this: he essentially finds out that his grandmother has been murdered, yet when he comes to the scene, he sees a detective lazily flirting with a woman. I would be terribly upset as well. Not to mention, the detective isn't the least bit concerned about Preston's feelings, he instead belittles him and tells him to get out of the way. So rude. I know it's already chapter two, but I'm pretty horrified at these disrespectful characters. Maggie just seems like such a horrible person and Villari is pretty nasty as well. Not only that, but when Cassandra Boyer turns up, Maggie is equally as rude to her as she had been to Preston. I can see that it's meant to be seen as two ignorant, "trust fund" grandchildren of a deceased woman and that the author wants us to hate them. Yet, I just don't really see the whole point. Maggie is being really unfair to the both of them. Her behaviour is just beyond rude. These people have had their grandmother murdered, but Maggie just can't seem to find two seconds of her time to be nice to them. I can understand their behaviour, but Maggie just seems like a hateful, rude and thoroughly unlikeable person. I can't understand her personality or motives at all.
There's just something about Maggie always trying to get attention that bothers me. In the reading of the will, she keeps on making snide remarks to everyone, trying to insult both Boyers and mock the detective as well. Yet, when the actual reading of the will begins, she just completely ignores the lawyer. Later on, she keeps on forcing herself into others' business and then complaining about them as if they're annoying her. Every time someone comes to talk to her, she just fobs them off as if she hasn't got the time. She disregards the comments others make and deliberately tries to offend people. When she and Villari are having dinner, he questions her some more and she mockingly lists all the ways she might have killed Elizabeth. I found this behaviour to be truly disgusting. Elizabeth was meant to be her friend and here is Maggie, having a laugh at her death. It's not the only time, either. Maggie is full of sarcasm and is often making poor jokes about the lady's death. It's hard to believe that they were friends because it's obvious to me that Maggie didn't give a damn about her. After the will had been read, the lawyer had given her a handwritten letter from Elizabeth and she just leaves it lying around. As Villari points out, she's essentially been using it as a coaster. It's thoroughly obvious to me that she just doesn't give a damn about anyone but herself. I don't understand why Elizabeth had so much love for her. It's just bad writing that the author makes it out as if Maggie is loved by everyone, yet in reality she is a pretty nasty person to every single person.
Moving on to Sam Villari, one of the detectives on the case. To me he is quite the type of character who must have seemed like a good idea at the time of the author writing the book, but was not a very good idea in the long run. I can understand his turning up to various scenes as a detective and that he's just investigating the case. However, the way he talks to her is just so unprofessional. He even starts turning up at random points in time just to take care of her. He turns up at her house at odd times and he seems thoroughly creepy, the way he follows her around. Also, if I were her, I would wonder what kind of a police officer he is; does he do this type of thing with all of his suspects? He kisses her, despite her being a major suspect in an ongoing murder investigation who had just stolen (the night before) a major piece of evidence from the victim's home. (I'd like to point out that any decent officer would have already had that diary in evidence.) He invites her to dinner at his parents' home and even sleeps with her. Despite the fact that she's a suspect. He says that she isn't, but she should be. He can't properly rule her out of the investigation, so she's still a suspect. I can't understand his behaviour. If I were his boss, I'd have him fired for inappropriate conduct. Even if Villari doesn't consider her a suspect, she still is a witness. Maggie was also beyond rude to him about his heritage. She claims that one Italian husband was enough to ruin Italians for her. Because of that, she makes fun of his family and behaviour. I just found it to be somewhat discriminatory... After all, what's wrong with him being Italian?
I'll just leave the character complaints there for now, and discuss the plot. Overall, it was somewhat lame. There's a mystery, yes, but it's essentially just figuring out who killed Elizabeth Boyer. Apart from that, there's no real investigation, other than Maggie's poorly done interview of one lady from the appointment book. The author doesn't present many clues and it's not really possible for us, as a reader, to solve it beyond basic assumptions. Maggie is made to look smart at the end, just because she figured it out, when really anyone in the plot could have if they'd bother to take note of shoes and coffee drinking. The mystery aspect was somewhat poorly written in that sense, but also in the fact that I have no sympathy for any of the characters. It became obvious to me that I had absolutely no interest in finding out who killed Elizabeth, or why. Mind you, the 'why' was obvious all along. Beyond the mystery, the writing was pretty bad. The author just can't get their story straight. Maggie is an art teacher and art enthusiast, yet she never goes to work and when she does sit herself down in front of a block of clay, she has absolutely no passion. She never knows what she wants to sculpt and it is quite obvious that she doesn't even want to; she's forcing herself to sit there and she has absolutely no love for the art. Another part of the writing style is that there are huge portions just dedicated to Maggie's feelings. Yet, they just drone on and on. One or two paragraphs might be interesting, but it's just sheer madness in what the author does, having at least a third of the entirety of the book focused on the woman's very repetitive feelings.
Overall, the book was just terrible. It seems like the author is unimaginative with their characters and they lack a lot of creativity with the overall plot as well. There's little mystery as to who had committed the crime and there are no proper clues presented, in any case. The author chooses to focus all of our attention on some awful relationship with a hateful person and a creepy detective who's meant to be investigating the crime. It was all just so badly done. I can't find any reason to rate it higher than one star.