Monday, June 25, 2012

Murder on the Half Shelf - a Booktown Mystery by Lorna Barrett

Published by Berkley Prime Crime
Review based on Advance Reading Copy

As the story begins, Tricia and Angelica, two sisters who own shops in Booktown, a revamped original part of Stoneham, New Hampshire, are trundling their way to the new Sheer Comfort Inn, where Angelica has won an overnight stay for two in a draw at the town Chamber. The Sheer Comfort Inn, a beautifully renovated Victorian home, has not been officially opened yet and is having a sort of dry run a week before opening. After a brief conversation with their hostess Pippa Comfort, Tricia becomes aware that Mrs. Comfort was expecting Angelica to be accompanied by Bob Kelly, owner of Kelly Real Estate and head of the Chamber of Commerce. As they head to their room, Tricia gets a glimpse of a slightly familiar man in the hall who suddenly turns away as though he does not want to be seen by her. Who would she know here aside from the other Chamber members who were recipients of the free stay? He looked like he worked at the hotel.

Love is definitely not in the air, but that doesn't stop a bit of running around among some of the residents. What is happening to romance in Stoneham? Angelica is angry with ex-boyfriend Bob, Mr. Everett is concerned about his marriage with Grace, Tricia is on the outs with Grant Baker, police chief and sometimes boyfriend/lover, too busy to see her, and more. Some friendships slip and jealousy rears its head. The mixed bunch of guests at the Inn don't seem to be having a romantic evening either. When Tricia takes Angelica's dog out for a walk a few minutes after getting to their room, Sarge sniffs out a body behind the fence and wouldn't you know it, the body is that of Pippa Comfort, last seen about five minutes before! What on earth could have happened? Naturally Tricia is faced with interrogation by Grant resulting in further distance between them after she reports the "accident". On the suspect list as the one who discovered the body, he can't be seen talking to her except about the case.

There are so many suspects for this murder and a lot of very interesting hobbies among the shopkeepers come to light. Nothing like a murder investigation to bring out the dirt, and this bit of laundry is sure to hang out someone to dry eventually. A lot of changes in this, the sixth of the Booktown Series. Lorna Barrett has served up another great mystery with old and new characters, a surprise from the past, good news and seriously bad news for Angelica in particular. Will she rise from the ashes of her career? Lorna Barrett's characters are believable, although possibly a stretch with one. When we get to know her better. we learn you not only can't judge a book by its cover, but the first introduction doesn't tell the whole story. I love some of the tongue-in-cheek names that show up occasionally in these books. Now I ask you, what could be more fitting than the Full Moon Nudist Camp and Resort?

Meanwhile, with the town beginning to think of Tricia as a jinx, who is sending her "gifts" in the mail with oblique messages? Who is always standing in shadow? Why does she have to find another body, fortunately one that is still breathing, on her next walk with Sarge, the dog with the great sniffer? So many questions to be answered and difficult to guess what the answers may be. Lots of twists and mixed emotions among the Booktown people in this book. Once again, a downright good read with recipes as a bonus. Even with all the many conflicts and resolutions in this book, all part of the mystery, this storyline does not falter nor confuse. Good, solid writing and a very funny last paragraph...don't peek, it won't make any sense unless you read the book! Four easy and tasty recipes included.

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