A Fatal Chapter (A Booktown Mystery) by Lorna Barrett (3 out of 5)
One of the things I tell people who ask why I read so many books is that it’s an escape. Many times, I’ve gotten roped into many series by customers, only to lose interest halfway through and forget about it. That also happens when you read a lot of books! Sometimes, though, you get into a series and keep with it. That’s happened with Victoria Thompson’s Gaslight Mystery series, the former Monk series (based on the USA show), the Linda Castillo Amish series, and this series, the Booktown series. The thing about this series is that it’s based on a town on the East Coast that is a tourist town that revolves around books. What’s not for a 15-year veteran of the brutal bookselling trade to like? I’ve read them all, and I always look forward to May for her next book release. Another thing I like is that Tricia, the heroine of the series, is by turns persnickety, panicky, and then whimsical and at moments, incredibly insecure. Sounds like…ME! And the ring of bookselling throughout the book? Rings true time and time again. You get so invested in characters and the whole bookselling business that you want to read all the books in the series. Sounds like…ME! Of course, the past two threw me for loops, especially the last book, which left me terribly uncaring about where the series- and its heroine and plucky booktown- ended up. Happily, that feeling was put to bed with this one, although I had my moments of irritability, mainly because I guessed whodunit. And it was! Otherwise, there were a few moments of surprise at the end that shocked me, so I was pulled back into the believability factor. So, that was a pleasant surprise.
Tricia, our heroine, is distraught after her bookstore burned down and she lost everything she owned (in the last book). She’s working as an unpaid volunteer at the Chamber oF Commerce, and staying there while the insurance company takes forever settling the claim so that she can rebuild. She figures out early on whom the town’s mysterious benefactor is, and she’s annoyed that no one trusted her with this (hint: someone obvious) sooner. So she has her mini-meltdown and after bitching about it, moves onto her next target: Bob Kelly. The idiot crook is still walking around, not in jail, and harassing everyone in sight; especially Tricia, whom he wants to buy his building, but for whom he refuses to negotiate down on an outlandish offer. Tricia’s sister Angelica is still around, still thriving, and still awesome. Her ex Christopher is still hanging around, trying his best to reconnect. Her other ex, Police Chief Grant Baker, is also still hanging around, but to warn Tricia to keep her nose clean. This doesn’t last long, as Tricia finds the town’s flirtatious curmudgeon Pete, knocked out and gasping for breath, while taking the dog out for a walk. Pete dies, so naturally Tricia’s reputation as “Town Jinx” is restored (if you haven’t read previous books, she has a penchant for finding dead bodies). The usual suspects abound, and you’re treated to all-too-brief glimpses of lovable favorites from the series: Russ, Nikki, Mr Everett, Grace, Antonio, Ginny, etc. I wish the supporting cast were more present, but it’s also realistic that they aren’t around much when the main hub of their character activity has been burned to the ground and those characters are working at other gigs until the bookstore is rebuilt. Before too long, town vandals and unpleasant happenings force Tricia and Angelica into sleuth mode, and what they uncover isn’t pretty, nor is it easily stopped. The ending? As I said, the perpetrator of the wrongdoings is exactly whom I thought, and the comeuppance is quick and satisfactory. However, the other half of the ending was so shocking I really didn’t see it coming, and that’s probably what saved it for me. So, tread carefully with this one, friends. If you’re quick witted and can see the DeForest Kelley through the Vulcan Salute, you may be quickly disengaged to another series in the interliterary galaxy.