Published by Berkley Prime Crime, New York
What a slam dunk opening to a story! Sentenced to Death certainly grabbed my attention with an astounding Founders Day Celebration in Stoneham, New Hampshire. Who could guess that an innocuous celebration would change the lives of the town's residents so much, in particular the Booktown shop-owners? Lorna Barrett, you've done it again! Although new characters are introduced, some remain and some leave, one way or another. Other characters make changes in their lives as land developers descend on this typically quiet little town.
The sudden death of Tricia's friend Deborah, by what must surely be the strangest weapon used in a cozy mystery, leaves the town in shock. Her devastating death leaves behind a toddler, Davey, husband David, and mother Elizabeth who is her store assistant cum babysitter. Festivities are cancelled, and the National Transportation Safety Board arrives to take over the investigation. Everyone believes it is a tragic accident, but Tricia feels there is more to it than that. She is sure it is murder and she is also sure she knows who is involved. The speed with which David hires a lawyer in preparation for a lawsuit, disposes by cremation of his wife's body with no funeral, and the speed with which he sells the store Deborah owned with her mother, adds another nail to his coffin in Tricia's mind. But could that simply be the actions of a man suffering the trauma of losing his wife so suddenly? And what about the Nigela Racita Associates' rush to buy up properties in town, including Deborah's shop "Happy Domestic", partly owned by Elizabeth and sold out from under her?
Lorna Barrett has a special knack for letting us picture the town and the townspeople with her descriptive voice. Her characterizations are human and consistent, not over-the-top. This is Book 5 in the Booktown series and we've come to know a lot about the residents. In this book, pestered by her ex-boyfriend and uncertain about her current unproclaimed beau, feeling the loss of her assistant Ginny as she furthers her career as the new manager of the Happy Domestic, Tricia is definitely stressed. She is confused by the discovery that though she was one of her best friends, Tricia seems to be out of the loop about much of Deborah's life. This story is full of secrets and conjecture. With two deaths and a town in turmoil, it appears that Tricia may just be right about the "accident" being murder, but what would be the reason for the second death in the same "accident"? Who could possibly want two such unconnected people dead?
I always enjoy this series, it is cohesive, maintains its character, has a strong plot full of surprises, and is always entertaining. Well done, an excellent choice for readers of cozies and unique mysteries.
Review based on Advance Reading Copy (ARC)