Book Clubbed by Lorna Barrett (3 out of 5)
This is the latest in the “Booktown” series by Lorna Barrett. They have been regular reading since my former tour of duty for the Bubba Book Barn and one of my regulars recommended it. The last one was the best one, but this one, well, something went hasta la vista, baby, and it never came back. The characters are one of the best parts of this book. There are always sentimental, mushy moments, but they are few and far between because Tricia, our book’s heroine, is a pretty sturdy, stern sort who doesn’t get overly sentimental. This book saw some changes in that regard, and that may or may not benefit readers of the series down the road. By the end of the book, I wasn’t sure what to make of this book. The only thing that saved it, for me at least, were the characters and that I didn’t see the end coming at all. Otherwise, little things annoyed me.
This time around, Tricia, our owner of Haven’t Got A Clue, the mystery bookshop in the “book theme town” of Stoneham, Massachusetts, and her sister Angelica are Angelica’s house discussing committee business. Betsy, the annoying know-it-all curmudgeon receptionist, sniffs and poohs her way out of the conversation and disappears upstairs. Many a racket ensues, and at the end of it, no Betsy reappears. Tricia (who has a history of finding dead bodies in this seris) goes up to check on the missing Betsy, and finds her crushed to death underneath a bookcase. The suspects are numerous, for Betsy wasn’t a likable lady. The ladies, the mild mannered mailman, the town gossip Frannie, her ticked off sister Joelle, her former boss Bob Kelly (another man not liked by many and oddly enough, missing himself). Bob’s on the run, two of the ladies who run other stores in Booktown both turn up pregnant, Tricia’s ex husband and ex boyfriend (and police chief) are fighting over her, Angelica is trying to get a new real estate committee on board in town to help support the town which is starting to sink under bad business (which may be a backward aim at the book industry in light of stupid Kindles, Nooks, Crapazon, etc.), there’s a lot going on in this one. The case gets stranger and stranger, as it’s revealed Betsy was a class A hoarder. When they go through her house and computer files (the files illegally, of course. Is there no way to get legit answers?), they find out she was embezzling thousands of dollars and had dirt on all of the residents of the town, as if for later blackmail. Her screwy ex-husband and sister go postal over the family Bible, which has gone missing and is now secretly in Tricia’s possession. Things get ugly fast, and Tricia, her store, her sister, and yes, even her cat, are in danger of being taken out as they get closer to the ugly truth. What happens?
I will tell you that you will be mildly ticked off. There are all sorts of things in this book that Barrett starts and never really finishes. I gather that’s par for the course in the next book. Hopefully, after that ending, there is another book, I should add. Betsy’s hoarding seems to be a big puzzle piece, but it serves only as an emotional crutch, once the truth is revealed. It give us much of an idea why she did what she did. I didn’t feel as if the whole angle really sent us any answers at all. The epic battle for Tricia’s heart between Christopher and Grant never really seems to get going. Christopher seems to be there, then stands watching Tricia from afar. Tricia’s ex Russ, who has gotten remarried, and she revisit, briefly, their romance, which was two or three books back. I guess they needed closure? I thought for sure that if that conversation took place, then the epic battle for her heart would rev up. No, instead, it completely disappeared. What place did that have in this novel? Really, not much of a reason to be there.Then Bob Kelly- former Committee president and town pariah to many for his unscrupulous business practices and pissy attitude. He’s on the run; you’re led to believe he may have murdered Betsy, although the motive doesn’t really add up to the means. When you find out what he did, you’re stunned by the silliness of his ‘crime’. There really is no crime. When that whole scene played out, I felt my hopes for this being a five star sinking like the Titanic movie once Celine Dion got involved. I guess she is trying to distract away from the murder so we don’t see the ending coming. I didn’t see the ending coming, but when I did, well, I was surprised. I was also a little stupified. I felt as if it were the strangest ending of any of the books in the series. I also did not care for the overall ending to the book. What a sad, depressing end to what was a startling reveal in who did it. I hope the next book is better than this one.