August Catch’s uncle Digby had been a larger than life figure in his childhood until August’s mother (and Digby’s sister) died and Digby moved to Cape Cod to escape his grief and become the gardener for an estate called Arachne’s Loom. In the intervening eighteen years, their connection as family was practically the only thing keeping them in each other’s lives, but when August gets a call about Digby’s sudden death and funeral, he’s instantly on a plane. At the estate, August’s interaction with the household staff and the Webb family, particularly the handsome Theodore Webb, shows him there was more to his uncle than he imagined…and possibly more to his uncle’s death than a simple heart attack.
Having spent the past eighteen years following Digby around and soaking up anything the man wanted to share with him, including stories about his nephew, Theo considered Digby a good friend and immediately feels like he knows August upon first meeting. Given how close he was to Digby, Theo is uneasy about not being contacted about Digby’s death and the speed of his funeral—a feeling that increases as August begins sorting through Digby’s effects and oddities pop up and lies get told. While Theo would like nothing more than to be wrong and focus solely on getting August to stay, finding the truth may be the only way to avoid losing someone else.
The Death of Digby Catch is a short, mystery novella with likable leads that’s light on the mystery and heavy on the insta-love. The writing style is pleasant and I really enjoyed Theo’s character, as well as the relationships the MCs have with their close friends, especially August and his best friend, Liv. For me, August comes most alive in their few scenes together and comes the closest he gets to personality/backstory development. Overall, the story is enjoyable, but uneven in terms of fleshing out the leads, for though the book is told in alternating first person POV, it feels like Theo’s story. From Theo’s first chapter, the dynamic and relationship between him and his mother is established, as is his personality and how insightful he is. He’s given backstory for how he begins following Digby around after the death of his father, anecdotes about their relationship and how Theo feels connected to August because he and Digby spent so much time talking about him. Spector does a great job establishing Theo as a character in his own right.
August, on the other hand, feels like a generic nice guy reacting to a collection of circumstances as he isn’t given the same development as Theo. Although August is Digby’s nephew, he has little emotional investment in his uncle, and it’s clear that Digby shared/talked about personal things more with Theo than with August, something that could have been interesting to explore and added some insight into the character. August gets little in the way of backstory other than his mom died and Digby bounced. Unlike Theo’s mom, August’s mom remains unnamed, even though her death was so traumatic for Digby he left his grieving nephew and is the catalyst for how August and Digby’s relationship first fractured. Additionally, I can only assume August’s dad raised him because outside of his mom dying, nothing is mentioned about how he grew up and/or if his dad was/is around or alive—again unlike Theo. You learn that August is tall, built, and beautiful. You know his occupation and that he’s looking for a job because his relationship fell through a few months ago and not much else. His mutual connection to Theo seems just as superficial since it’s based on Theo being gorgeous and considerate, whereas Theo’s instant draw to August has almost two decades worth of interest behind it and feels more earned.
Theo is also the driver of their “investigation” into Digby’s death. He finds and puts together the clues; he makes deductions; he believes. August’s role is pretty much doubter, then Scooby-Do prop. The mystery aspect is a letdown for me as its construction is so focused on making sure that “all the clues point in one direction” that some of them don’t make sense given the outcome and the killer’s (presumed) motivations. For example, one of the clues makes absolutely no sense as anything other than a bad red herring. It’s a misdirect made for seemingly only one reason —The ending is rushed and the whole ‘people be crazy’ answer to the killer’s motivation and sudden loony tunes behavior felt very unsatisfying.
That being said, I can see people enjoying The Death of Digby Catch. Both MCs are likable, and while I didn’t really feel the chemistry that would warrant where the couple ended up in the epilogue, they share enough nice moments that I could totally see them dating. For fans of the author and quick no-angst insta-love reads and those not looking for a tight mystery, The Death of Digby Catch may work better for you.