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Murder on the Half Shelf: 12/13/17
Murder on the Half Shelf by Lorna Barrett is the sixth book in the Booktown mystery series. I have been listening to this series as audiobooks, and this one is the first one after a change of publishers. The first five were produced by Penguin Audio and performed by Cassandra Campbell. Starting with book six, the publisher is Tantor Audio and the narrator is Karen White. After five books (or roughly two full days of hearing one actor and her different voices for the characters) some of my misgivings with this book may be due to the unfamiliarity of a new voice.
The Dragonfly Inn — no sorry — the Sheer Comfort Inn — is about to open and the Comforts are having a test run. They'd held a raffle at the Chamber of Commerce and invited the winners. Among those winners is Angelica. Still angry at Bob, she has invited Tricia instead. (I can't help but continue to see similarities with The Gilmore Girls.)
Before anyone is even settled in their rooms, Pippa Comfort is murdered. She's discovered by Sarge, Angelica's dog. And of course Tricia was the one holding the leash at the time.
Now with a murder set in a bed and breakfast, I expected most of the action to remain in the bed and breakfast. Sure, the town isn't that far away, but that is the usual course of action. Back in my review of Murder is Binding, I commented on how the book plays with expectations. The series continues to do that, especially here where everyone goes home to Stoneham rather than try to solve the mystery themselves. It's a more realistic approach but also, oddly, off-putting.
There are three agents keeping Tricia involved in the murder when she otherwise wouldn't need to be. The first is Sarge who seems to act as a furry McGuffin. Then there is Tricia's long lost first love, a man she has believed dead all these years and is now the prime suspect. Finally there is her maybe-boyfriend and newly appointed chief of police.
Beyond the disruption of having a different narrator for the audiobook, the inclusion of a suddenly rediscovered long lost boyfriend was a hard detail to swallow. I realize that the Sheer Comfort Inn is out of town but it seems hard to believe that after nearly three years of living and working and snooping around Stoneham and its neighboring towns, Tricia would some how be oblivious to the fact that her ex-boyfriend is living under an assumed name.
The other odd bit to Murder on the Half Shelf is the B plot. The marriage between Mr. Everett and Grace has hit a snag — namely the charitable foundation Grace is running. Keeping the two of them apart besides the work of running the foundation and screening applicants, is Pixie — a former prostitute turned secretary and bouncer. There's a lot of time spent on Pixie being the worst (or best) receptionist ever and White does a great almost Annie Potts at her most Jeanine type voice for her. She's a memorable character who probably needs her own series of books. Regardless, so much effort was put into creating her character it was fairly obvious that she wouldn't be a one time only character.
And that comes down to other reason why I took a star off. Sure, it's still enjoyable and the mystery itself was compelling — though the solution was a bit left field, a la Miss Marple (Christie's sleuth, not Tricia's cat) who never seems to share what she knows with the reader. The biggest flaw in this volume was its pacing. The obvious plot parts were obvious. The filler parts were obviously filler. There wasn't enough in the way of natural segues to give the story an organic feel.
Comment #1: Thursday, December 14, 2017 at 10:10:39
Awesome, honest review. Thanks for sharing. The author is new to me but I love the sound of it. Oh it must have been hard to get used to the new narrator. Glad that you at least enjoyed the story overall. ❤️😁
Comment #2: Thursday, December 14, 2017 at 21:25:00
Despite the flaws with the series, I'm enjoying it. I just finished the ninth book.