A Crafty Killing
Victoria Square, Book #1
By Lorraine Bartlett
Author Website: lorrainebartlett(.)com
The last thing Katie Bonner wanted was to become the manager of Artisans Alley. But when her business partner, Ezra Hilton, is found bludgeoned to death, she has no other choice. Business under Ezra has been faltering-but was it enough to provoke someone to murder? Only Katie can find the answer. (Goodreads)
Lorraine Bartlett has all the elements of a perfect cozy mystery – small town, eccentric characters, a change in careers, and, of course, one or two little murders. She does a remarkable job putting these elements together into a most challenging mystery to begin the Victoria Square mystery series.
Katie Bonner was widowed several months ago when her husband was in an accident. She and Chad were separated but close to reconciling; his accident left her with a small ownership in Artisans Alley next to Victoria Square in McKinlay Mills, NY. It had been an apple warehouse for many years, and now is a place for various artisans to display and sell their creative endeavors.
The primary owner of the property, Ezra Hilton, was found murdered in Artisan’s Alley when they opened for business one morning. By the end of the day, Katie learned that Ezra named her as executor of his estate and gave Katie half of his remaining majority of ownership and half to his nephew. Katie, now, has the majority ownership.
Katie worked at a one-man insurance agency and Josh, her boss, was a bully. He was outraged when Katie missed a day of work without prior notice when Ezra was found dead and as she met with the attorney and the artists. While her original intent was to do what was necessary to sell the property, when reviewing the paperwork she learned that the business was in trouble and she and Ezra’s nephew would be lucky if they could keep it open long enough to clear probate much less sell it. After Josh’s tantrums about the time she was off, Katie quit – thereby having a new job as unpaid manager of Artisans Alley.
To try to turn the business around, Katie had to make business decisions that weren’t popular with the vendors, but she did welcome input from them. Gerald Hilton, the man who would be the co-owner, came in to throw his weight around and advise that he would sell the Alley to a major hotel chain, who had supposedly made a generous offer to Ezra in the past and was turned down. Katie didn’t want to displace the artists, preferring to sell it as a going business.
Threats from Gerald, challenges from more than a couple artists, and another death occur, and Detective Davenport has no new information to help with the case. Katie talks and listens to as many people as she can in hopes of not only saving Artisans Alley and thereby the Victoria Square shops, but to also solve the murder and relieve the fears of shoppers and artists alike.
The characters are well crafted, and we get to know Katie as a three-dimensional young woman not unlike many of us. Katie is definitely a person who this reader has empathy for, and the artists and Victoria Square shop owners have diverse personalities. Katie had not known any of them prior to Ezra’s death, so she didn’t know who, if any of them – or even his nephew – had reason to murder Ezra. I enjoyed watching Katie grow as a person, particularly as she began to see those at Artisans Alley as individuals who could have some of the same needs to heal, move on, or find purpose for their lives.
The plot was intriguing with twists and turns that rival the mountain roads in Pennsylvania. Each twist brought surprises or revealed possible suspects. This mystery pulled me in from the first page and held my attention throughout. The author does an admirable job of designing and executing a complex novel in which the outcome could take one of several directions. The bad guy/ gal was somewhat of a surprise; the person was one I had considered based on one clue but couldn’t determine the motive. There were many breathtaking moments before the final resolution; the end was satisfying. I highly recommend A Crafty Killing and successive cozy mysteries in this series; as of this writing the fourth of which has just been released, Dead, Bath and Beyond.