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by Laurie Cass
Berkley Prime Crime, August 2017
345 pages
ISBN: 0451476565

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Fall is in the air in Chilson, Michigan; it's a lovely season, full of color and crisp days and nights. Maggie is contemplating the annual move from her houseboat to her aunt's boardinghouse. She is also enjoying some pleasant bookmobile drives before the snow arrives. Eddie, her cat (and the bookmobile mascot) makes an unpleasant discovery at one stop. Leese Lacombe is driving her father's old, beat-up pickup truck while her car is in the shop. In the bed, under a tarp, is the very dead body of Leese's father, Dale.

Dale is a local builder with a very bad reputation. His work is bad, he treats his help poorly, and nobody really has anything nice to say about him at all. So when the death is determined to be a homicide, there is no dearth of suspects. Unfortunately for Leese, she is at the top of the list. Minnie refuses to believe Leese could or would have done it, and begins to ask lots of questions, as is her wont. The police, of course, think she should butt out.

There are other things going on in Minnie's life, both personal and professional. Her aunt Frances is getting married, which doesn't bode well for the Inn and for Minnie's winter living arrangements. Minnie's romance with Ash is definitely on the tepid side; she isn't sure how to share that information with him. The new director at the library wants Minnie to cut the bookmobile budget, at least in part so that the library can purchase a new (and in Minnie's humble opinion, unnecessary) computer system.

Cass writes a good cozy. Her characters are believable. Leese's family, in particular, sounds quite familiar in their dysfunctional behavior. The story line holds up well. There are plenty of suspects, with an equal number of good motives. The setting is all one could ask (although I admit, living not that far from the area, to being biased). The romance issues are handled with a deft touch, not at all cloying or unpleasantly dramatic. All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable mystery.

§ I have been reading and reviewing mystery fiction for over a quarter of a century and read broadly within just about all genres and sub-genres. I have been a preliminary judge for the Malice Domestic/St. Martin’s Press Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Contest for at least 25 years. I live in Northern lower Michigan with my spousal unit, one large cat, and 2 fairly small dogs. My Sherlockian (BSI) nom-de-plume is VR; my license plate is BSI VR

Reviewed by PJ Coldren, August 2017

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