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Chapter and Hearse: 10/18/17
Chapter and Hearse by Lorna Barrett is the fourth of the Booktown mystery series. Angelica's cookbook has been published but the big launch party she was hoping to have in Stoneham is a complete bust. As they are putting away the uneaten food, there's a huge bang — the book store next to Angelica's restaurant has exploded, instantly killing the store's owner and injuring Bob — the man who owns most of the stores in the town.
Whenever there's not a body in a murder mystery, I immediately assume that it's a faked death. I'm still holding out for the deceased here to show up in a later book— having ended his money troubles temporarily by faking his death.
But that's not the point here. The point is, someone wanted the bookseller dead and knew that he always took a smoking break at a certain time in a certain place. The gas to his building was tampered with to make the explosion possible.
As seems to be the case in these Booktown mysteries, the death of retailer opens up a neverending flood of bad feelings and dark secrets. The beloved, now dead, towns-member isn't as beloved nor perfect as everyone has pretended — and Tricia has come to believe. Here the animosity is so strong that even the deceased's mother is involved.
It was the rocky (to put it politely) relationship of mother and son that was the most interesting piece of this book. It was also the plot that wasn't explored thoroughly enough. Again, going back to my original theory (the faked death), it was entirely plausible for the mother to have either killed him (as Tricia expects) or for them to have colluded to fake his death for insurance money so that she can travel the world and that he can leave town without having his store foreclosed. Unfortunately none of those things happen.
Instead, the solution comes out of left field. The clues are there too but the red herrings were more interesting and compelling.