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Murder is Binding: 08/02/17
Murder is Binding by Lorna Barrett is the first of the Booktown Mystery series. It's set in fictional Stoneham, New Hampshire, which is described as being in the center of the triangle made by Nashua, Milford, and Bedford. Stoneham was a failing town until Bob convinced the town council to rent the failing shopfronts to themed book stores — essentially converting the town into a New Hamphire Hay-on-Wye.
Tricia Miles is one of those newly enticed booksellers. She has opened a mystery book store, "Haven't Got a Clue." Next door to her is the Cookery — a cookbook themed store that sometimes offers cooking demonstrations. To complicate matters, Tricia's older sister has shown up — devastated by her latest marriage failing.
Although Stoneham boosts a long history of being a safe town, suddenly there's a murder. For a variety of reasons, the local sheriff has decided Tricia is the only plausible suspect. It's fairly common for the series protagonist to be set in opposition with the local authorities — either due to their incompetence or because of the protagonist's proximity to the crime. It's an awkward but necessary start — a way to force the protagonist to solve their first crime and thus establish their credentials as an amateur sleuth.
If the amateur sleuth to be is a woman, she's usually new to the town and recently out of a relationship — broken up, divorced, widowed. Tricia's case is one of amicable divorce. This makes her a suspicious stranger, and open for romance with some local hunk. If she's not new to the area, then she has a long time best friend or a book club, or similar who will help her investigate, all the while distracting her with fashion, food, coffee, or whatever.
Tricia's set up plays on those expectations (though does eventually slide into some of the tropes in later books). Instead of a best friend, she has her sister who is there to annoy her but is loyal and willing to help her investigate. Among her other soon to be BFFs are her employee, Ginny, and her elderly book store regular, Mr. Everett.
Now in reading other reviews, there's a theme among the negative reviews of Tricia as a likable character. I agree with them — she's not a likable character. Frankly, she's a difficult to understand character — but she's interesting. It is obvious that she and her sister grew up with money. Her husband had money and the divorce and some frugality on her part has left her single and still with money (as evidenced by her Lexus).
Her money and her love of and knowledge of the mystery genre have allowed her to afford to live comfortably in Stoneham while running her store. The fact that she and her sister both comment regularly on their confusion over the gap between minimum wage and a living wage — even in an economically depressed town — is further evidence of their life with money and privilege. That by the end of the book both sisters have opted to leave the big city for Stoneham makes them and their relationship interesting.
The second book in the series is Bookmarked For Death.
Comment #1: Thursday, August 03, 2017 at 08:36:04
I enjoyed your review. Sound like an interesting read.
Comment #2: Saturday, August 05, 2017 at 18:51:00
It's a good start to an interesting series. I just finished the sixth book.