BookBrowse Reviews Best Laid Plans by Gwen Florio

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Read-Alikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Best Laid Plans

A Nora Best Mystery #1

by Gwen Florio

Best Laid Plans by Gwen Florio X
Best Laid Plans by Gwen Florio
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Feb 2021, 256 pages

    Jul 2021, 256 pages


  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Ian Muehlenhaus
Buy This Book

About this Book



In this series launch, protagonist Nora Best experiences a midlife crisis in the mountains and finds herself entangled in a murder mystery.

When starting a series, first impressions are key. Introducing a sympathetic or relatable protagonist – preferably flawed in some way – is crucial so the first book provides traction for character development in future installments. In Best Laid Plans, Gwen Florio's heroine Nora Best has plenty of room for growth. She suffers from subtle character flaws, including an obsession with food, coffee snobbery and judging people based on their sex appeal. Nora's personality didn't make me particularly sympathetic to her plight. Nonetheless, she comes off as remarkably genuine – an urbane 50-year-old woman stuck in the woods.

Nora is an upper-class author from Denver who is married to an attractive lawyer. The fun starts with the couple having sold everything to take a yearlong tour of the United States with a souped-up pickup and a large, bourgeois, customized camper trailer. Their goal is to meander across the country in luxury while Nora writes about exploring the U.S. with her dreamy husband and having lots of sex. She's been given advance money for her as-of-yet unwritten adventure because her editor sees potential after the moderate success of her first book, also about her sex life with her husband.

Fortunately for the reader, this farce of a romance novel never happens.

The night before they are to leave, Nora catches her husband having sex with his best friend's wife. (To add insult to injury, Nora has already derided the woman for letting herself go with age, commenting on fat hanging from under her arms — again, she is not the most sympathetic of heroines.) Nora storms off and hops into the new truck attached to the massive camper trailer, and even though two pages earlier she'd been slamming tequila shots and has never driven a truck with a 20-plus foot attachment, she somehow manages to leave her husband in the dust for Wyoming.

From here, several expected subplots are foreshadowed. Nora overhears news on the radio about a serial killer targeting sex workers in the area. Naturally, she decides to stop at a campsite in the mountains 30 minutes from where the killer last struck. There she meets the attractive man who runs the site with his equally attractive wife.

Alas, that night something very bad happens. We are thrust into a mystery. The attractive man has disappeared! They find a little blood but no body. And as though serial killers and missing hotties aren't enough, we discover that grizzlies are known to roam the area. Could it have been a bear attack?!

Several more cliché male characters are subsequently introduced, including a small-town, not-too-bright sheriff, and a good-looking, super-dependable outdoorsy bear lover named Caleb. Guess which one Nora feels closer to?

Overall, Best Laid Plans is a bit of a tease. It seduces with a quick-moving plot, a few charming characters, and just enough tension to not be a bore. Like all teases, though, it also leaves you hanging for more. The author continually brings up sexual tension; yet there is barely any sex. The book throws new distractions and "what ifs" into the mystery, yet in the end, the villains are probably who you suspect.

That said, Florio is a great writer. Her descriptions of nature and food were vivid and engaging, often nice distractions from the less than suspenseful plot. At times I felt like I was reading a world-class food blog, as Nora waxes on about delicious chicken-fried steak and berry pies from hole-in-the-wall establishments.

If you're looking for some fun, easy reading by a gifted writer, I definitely recommend this one. If you prefer suspenseful thrillers or complex plotlines, you may want to look elsewhere.

Reviewed by Ian Muehlenhaus

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in February 2021, and has been updated for the October 2021 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!


Read-Alikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Best Laid Plans, try these:

  • The Distant Dead jacket

    The Distant Dead

    by Heather Young

    Published 2021

    About this book

    A young boy finds himself at the center of a murder mystery in this timely and twisty thriller from the author of the acclaimed The Lost Girls - a compelling and indelible story set in small town America that examines the burden of guilt, the bitter price of forgiveness, and the debts we owe our dead, both recent and distant.

  • The Long Call jacket

    The Long Call

    by Ann Cleeves

    Published 2020

    About this book

    More by this author

    From Ann Cleeves - bestselling and award-winning author of the Vera and Shetland series, both of which are hit TV shows - comes the first in a gripping new series.

We have 4 read-alikes for Best Laid Plans, but non-members are limited to two results. To see the complete list of this book's read-alikes, you need to be a member.
More books by Gwen Florio
Search read-alikes
How we choose read-alikes

Become a Member

Join BookBrowse today to start discovering exceptional books!

Find out more

Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Lost Wife
    The Lost Wife
    by Susanna Moore
    The Lost Wife is a hard-hitting novella based in part on a white settler named Sarah Wakefield's ...
  • Book Jacket
    Firekeeper's Daughter
    by Angeline Boulley
    Voted 2021 Best Young Adult Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers

    Angeline Boulley's young adult ...
  • Book Jacket: Hello Beautiful
    Hello Beautiful
    by Ann Napolitano
    Ann Napolitano's much-anticipated Hello Beautiful pulls the reader into a warm, loving familial ...
  • Book Jacket: The West
    The West
    by Naoíse Mac Sweeney
    It's become common for history books and courses to reconsider the emphasis on "Western Civilization...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
The First Conspiracy
by Brad Meltzer & Josh Mensch
A remarkable and previously untold piece of American history—the secret plot to kill George Washington

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Pieces of Blue
    by Holly Goldberg Sloan

    A hilarious and heartfelt novel for fans of Maria Semple and Emma Straub.

Win This Book
Win Girlfriend on Mars

30 Copies to Give Away!

A funny and poignant debut novel that skewers billionaire-funded space travel in a love story of interplanetary proportions.



Solve this clue:

S I F A R Day

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.