My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I had mixed feelings about this freebie. It was entertaining in a popcorn sort of way. Cassie is likeable enough. You feel dropped into something in media res even though you're not. Cassie is a note taker for a detective and has done sleuthing of her own. We've not seen that because this is book one but Cassie's companions, her landlady and the landlady's nephew make sure everyone knows Cassie is good at detecting.
That comes in handy because their day at the carnival ends up with the cowboy act turning into a murder. I have to say there weren't a lot of suspects but the unraveling of the few there were and the reason for the killing made sense.
What made less sense was the steampunk elements. I had no idea why they were there. They didn't add anything, the story would have been the same without them. So it smacked of laziness in the world building (why does she have a steam powered typewriter? I don't know). It felt more like the author likes the steampunk aesthetic and leaned into it but didn't do it well. It reminds me of the rather mean saying in steampunk that it takes more than 'gluing gears to a hat.' (isn't that were a lot of our cosplay starts? I hate seeing people getting knocked down when they're taking their first steps) that said this felt a lot like that, not really quite there.
I'm not sure I'd buy another of the series but I'd read it if I stumbled over it.
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