Murder on the Half Shelf by Lorna Barrett(3 out of 5)
This is another book in the Booktown series by Lorna Barrett. If you like “niche mystery” and books, this is a good series to read.
Trish is the owner of Haven’t Got A Clue, a mystery bookshop in Massachusetts. One bookshop of many- the entire town is made up of specialty bookstores, and a tourist attraction. Trish’s sister Angelica now runs a store in the town, and she ends up being Trish’s partner in solving crimes, unwittingly. This time, Angelica has won a night free at the new hotel in town- the Sheer Comfort Inn. The two sisters have barely settled into their night out when during a walk with Angelica’s dog, Trish finds the body of Pippa Comfort, who was one of the owners of the hotel. The search turns up Pippa’s husband, who Trish is stunned to recognize as Harry Tyler- her ex who disappeared over twenty years ago and was presumed dead. He’s immediately under suspicion. So are a number of people who won the raffle that the hotel was holding. One by one, the suspects are eliminated. In the meantime, Angelica is almost killed during a talk-show appearance hyping her cookbook, and Trish has her hands full with chatty gossip town-goers trying to get information out of her about the murder. Trish’s now-estranged boyfriend is the chief of police, and after telling her she is also a suspect, she cools things off between them for the forseeable future. Trish also has her hands full with her store, her part-time employee and his marriage issues, and her new hire, who’s doing a great job but is being courted away by another job. Sounds like a lot? It is. Throw in Trish getting mysterious items in the mail alluding to her past, although she honestly has no idea who could be sending her this stuff. Still more….one of the most disappointing things about this book was that there was so much upheaval going on around. There are character references of familiar Stoneham residents throughout the book, but none of them are ever followed through. Nikki, the town’s baker, is a friend of Trish’s who is now engaged to her ex Russ. There’s a misunderstanding between them and Nikki tells her to buzz off and stay away from her soon-to-be husband. This is quite upsetting to Trish, and yet it’s brought up- and dropped. No resolution. Angelica’s accident that could have killed her? It’s never really investigated or deemed suspicious, except by Trish. We never hear of any resolution with regard to what happened. Frannie, the gossipy older lady- she keeps sticking her nose into everyone’s business, and she drops a big bomb- then just- disappears. Michelle, one of the owners of the new bar/restaurant/tourist attraction in the town, supposedly hates Trish and is on best friend terms with Angelica, but she suddenly is buddy-buddy with Trish. There’s a scene toward the end of the book where Michelle acts rather oddly, which you are led to believe, is leading to a great revealation- or some part in this murder. Guess what? It’s dropped- never addressed. That’s really frustrating. None of the other books in this series have ever done that. I don’t know why it’s going on in this one, but I hope by the next one, this new writing plot- whatever it is or what’s it called, I could care less about-is gone.
Another thing I was heartily sick of in this novel is the fact that Trish is finally starting to come out from her sister’s shadow and stand her ground(Angelica was always the go-getter overly ambitious success- Trish went the quieter route to her life, and the earlier books touch a lot upon the fact that she always felt she didn’t measure up to Angelica). Then- half of the book has her mooning over her past with the ex who’s wife has just been murdered. Then she re-visits her broken marriage, her back-and-forth flirtation with Russ, and her now faltering relationship with the police chief. You have the feeling that she doesn’t feel like she can be anyone unless there is a man there for her to focus on. Trish is a great character, I would love one of these books to be her on her own, and not pining over the males that have come and gone in her life. After the ending Barrett throws at us, well, I don’t see that happening in the next book.
The end pleased me to no end. I had no flipping idea who killed the hotel owner. There was a revolving door of probable suspects, and when the big reveal came, it wasn’t convoluted, it made perfect sense. They introduced 2 new characters- a lady who starts out as an assistant manager at Haven’t Got a Clue, and a sarcastic punk girl who ends up being on parole for being a hooker, and who’s sentenced to working the phones at a non-profit organization. They end up switching jobs at the end, but not before both characters have endured themselves to you, and in the future Booktown books. So great job. And as usual, the book is a quick, enjoyable read. I just wish it flowed smoothly as it usually does. Not one of her better books in the series, but still a highly enjoyable quick read.