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Valentine Murder: 06/18/22
Valentine Murder by Leslie Meier and Karen White (Narrator) is the fifth Lucy Stone mystery. Valentine's day is approaching and Lucy is now on the library board. Before the meeting is even started, the library director is found dead at the bottom of the stairs, a bullet through her head.
The Lucy Stone mysteries are unusual for the series I read in that they seem to take place in real time. Many mystery series have a three to six month gap between murders, meaning that as the years pass between volumes, the mysteries end up happening in a blended time of the past and the present (if anachronistic details are tossed in). Some authors like Sue Grafton, prided themselves on maintaining a strict timeline despite the lag. Others, like Elizabeth Peters had fun keeping things in the now-now for their present day series.
Three years have passed between book three, Trick or Treat Murder (1996) and Valentine Murder (1999). The newborn baby is now in preschool. Her oldest siblings are in high school.
Another important detail: Mistletoe Murder aka Mail-Order Murder had Lucy working at a mail order center in the pre-internet days (1991). Now eight years later her children are addicted to the internet and Lucy is having to learn how to work a computer. She's still free lancing for the newspaper, but how work is done there is adapting with the advent of the internet and readily available email.
One more notable change is the series' shift from the books being thrillers to being cozies. Volume 5 is the first recognizably cozy. Thus there are different tropes and pacing at play here.
The mystery of who killed Bitsy Howell is similar to A Midwinter's Tail by Sofie Kelly (2014). Both murders take place in essentially locked rooms with a limited number of suspects. As it's a board meeting, there are even fewer possible murderers. Yet both books take their time padding the plot with extraneous investigation on the assumption that it was done by an outsider. Both though ultimately hinge on what did the victim know about the murderer to lead to such a desperate act?
The sixth book is Christmas Cookie Murder (1999).