Chapter and Hearse
Berkley, Aug 2010, $7.99
Bob Kelly might not be the nicest person in New England, but he was instrumental in saving his hometown of Stoneham, New Hampshire from financial bankruptcy. He somehow got several booksellers to open up stores in the town; this proved so successful the village is famous as Booktown.
One of the new proprietors Tricia Mills, owner of Haven’t Got a Clue, is hosting a book signing for her sister who just published a cookbook. Angelica owns the Cookery and the Booked for Lunch. When Angelica’s boyfriend Bobfails to show up, Tricia looks for him and notices he is talking with Jim Roth of History Repeats Itself. When she returns to her store, an explosion occurs, which destroys History Repeats Itself, kills Jim and injures Bob. Once Angelica knows her boyfriend is okay, she goes on her book tour. Meanwhile the police conclude Jim was murdered and have three suspects with strong motives including the victim’s mother. Other people wanted him dead too. Tricia places herself in danger searching for a killer who will do anything to remain anonymous.
Chapter and Hearse is filled with action, but is character driven by the visitors and small town eccentrics who turn the cozy wonderfully and amusingly convoluted. The protagonist is strong willed and independent who believes in doing the right thing (a too frequently used trait of the amateur sleuth) even when the police and others tell her to butt out of their inquiry. Lorna Barnett has written a delightful amateur sleuth filled with red herrings and false leads that keep reader interest from the explosion till the explosive climax.