I received this galley in exchange for an honest review.
Author: Jennifer Brown
Publisher: Hallmark Publishing
Publish Date: January 7, 2020
This book is perfect for those that like: swoony police officers wanting to take you to dinner, best friends who rib each other, and giblets.
You might not like this book if you aren’t into: entitled teens, school campuses that let anyone walk in at any time, or filthy concession stands.
It’s been a year since former big city crime reporter Hollis Bisbee left Chicago and settled in sleepy, but charming, Parkwood. Still a reporter, but instead of crime, Hollis is busy delivering the news on the new hot dog roller at the high school stadium and chasing down leads on the cafe’s new giblet recipe.
Bored and missing her old fast-paced life, she enlists her best friend Daisy to start a true-crime podcast. But what happens when true crime actually comes to Parkwood in the form of murder? Will Hollis and Daisy solve the case? Or will they be sidelined by the ever-present, and ever so good looking Officer Hopkins?
I feel like I need to start this off by saying that I really did enjoy The Game Changer. The mystery itself left me guessing the entire time and there were several SHUTUP moments throughout the book. However, I have to be honest when I say that I did not like the main character, Hollis Bisbee, all that much. I’m generally a big fan of Messy Female Characters Who Make Poor Choices, but she was kinda terrible? But we will get to that.
Let’s talk story first…
The plot is centered around the death/possible murder of Coach Gerald Farley, the head football coach of the town’s rival high school, who gets killed after the big game in the parking lot of the stadium. Hollis, who happens to be at the game investigating the new concession stand hot dog roller when Coach Farley is killed, sees this as her chance to do some Real Reporting again and jumps into action at the crime scene. With the help of Hollis’ next-door neighbor/BFF Daisy, the two start an investigation of their own to try and find the killer and solve the case. Except they have a rookie cop named Brooks Hollis following them to try and keep them from actually investigating anything.
Y’all. Nothing in this story played like a typical cozy and I LOVED it. I mean, you have to read most cozies with a very large grain of salt as the lead character is usually very conveniently where they need to be to find clues and almost always gets out of tricky situations without being caught. Not in this story. Hollis and Daisy were constantly getting caught and called out and I loved it. Every time I thought this story was going to venture into cliche cozy territory, it veered left and surprised me, much to my delight.
The friendship between Hollis and Daisy was by far my favorite aspect of this story. Their back and forth banter, especially in the podcast scenes was hilarious. They seemed like true friends who truly cared about one another but also trusted their relationship enough to make jokes about each other. Their rivalry for podcast attention from the town had me laughing.
As for the characters themselves, Daisy was by far the best to me. A mom to four kids, five if you count her husband Mike, an entrepreneur setting up her own baked goods business, a podcasting natural, and could cover a pan of lemon bars in plastic wrap with one hand. (She’s my hero and I want to be her for that last reason alone.) But she also grounded Hollis. Sure, she was willing to be her partner in crime in whatever impulsive mission Hollis took them both on, but Daisy was also not afraid to call out her friend. Only a true friend will let you know that you’re being a jerk, but love you through it anyway.
Brooks, a rookie police officer, and potential love interest for Hollis, was a bit harder to read. He was swoony to be sure (here’s where I 100% admit to y’all that I saw him as Marc Blucas in my mind while reading– hashtag zero shame), but there was so much left out of his story. He’s a new member to the Parkwood community, just like Hollis, but there seems to be a lot more to him than meets the eye and we don’t get much of his backstory. Will we in the future? I hope so. This book was a great set-up for his character.
And now we come to Hollis. Oh Hollis. I wanted to like you so much. Hollis was feisty and ambitious, which I loved, but also kinda stubborn and a bit selfish? The problem for me wasn’t that she was bored with her job, but that she came off as resentful of her new life and everyone in it. Like she was above it all and this was only temporary, so nothing else mattered but Hollis. In reality, as the story moves forward, we realize that she’s scared to commit to the town because that means that she has to accept that her old life is over. That there is no chance of reconciliation. But does it work?
For the most part yes. Her yearning for her old life is the driving force behind her Quest for the Truth in Coach Farley’s murder, but at the same time, it’s this unwillingness to let go of the past that threatens her relationship with Daisy and her potential romance with Brooks. I didn’t feel much change in her character overall. Sure she apologized for some of the things she said and did, but I felt like she was placating people as opposed to genuinely feeling sorry for how she acted. I wanted her to recognize how selfish she had been to pretty much everyone around her and realize that she was using Brooks. I haven’t lost all hope in this character yet though. I think she could end up being one of my favorite characters if she gives Parkwood and its people a real chance.
Overall, I thought this was a solid start to what I hope is going to be an ongoing series. I would love to see how Hollis and Daisy grow both the podcast and their relationship as sleuthing partners.