A Questionable Character

Booktown Mystery #17

By Lorna Barrett

ISBN 9780593549414

Author Website: lornabarrett(.)com

Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie


The murder of a local contractor may be the final nail in the coffin for Tricia Miles in the latest entry to Lorna Barrett’s New York Times bestselling Booktown series.

It’s a busy summer in Booktown. Contractor Jim Stark is in great demand: he’s overseeing a number of projects, including Angelica Miles’s newly constructed building on Main Street, finishing up the new brew pub, and gutting a stone mansion off Main Street that Angelica bought to be the world headquarters for Nigela Ricita Associates. It’ll house office space where her marketing staff and the rest of the NR Associates clerical personnel will work.

Tricia Miles and Angelica arrive at the mansion before their workday to see how the construction is going. They find the place unlocked and Stark’s right-hand man, Sanjay Arya, dead—bludgeoned to death. The loss of the contractor’s top man threatens all the projects in the works, which would effectively ruin the expensive marketing plan that the Chamber of Commerce has been working. Is Jim a suspect? (He’d be stupid to kill the person he depends on to keep the projects going.) But Stark also thinks his wife, who was very chummy with Sanjay, might have been cheating on him with the second-in-command, making him a likely suspect.

Once again Tricia finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation, but can she find the killer before he or she has the chance to bring the hammer down? (From Goodreads)


What finer place could there be for an avid reader to live or visit than Stoneham, AKA Booktown, New Hampshire? I could get used to being around so many bookstores of various sizes and specialties! Those of us who thrive on mysteries would appreciate Haven’t Got a Clue, owned by Tricia Miles. Her specialty is mystery novels, with an emphasis on vintage mysteries.

I had mixed feelings about this visit to Booktown. I still enjoy the village even if it does have more murders than anywhere else in the state. The dedication that sisters Angelica and Tricia have to the village is outstanding, as is how active they are on its behalf. I was pleased to see a bit of change in the friendship between Tricia and Mr. Everett, one of the bookstore employees. A private man, he rarely involves himself with other people’s personal lives, but when he chose to do so, it was done with the utmost care and respect. The mystery was a challenge to understand and solve, especially with a limited number of clues. I even suspected one of the “good guys”!

This is a busy summer for everyone, including Stark Construction, owned by Jim Stark. His company has done several jobs for Tricia and Angelica, and is currently renovating a mansion for Nigela Ricita. Nigela has poured vast amounts of money into the local economy with business ownership and partnering with new businesses. The historic mansion will be used as an office building by NR Associates. with original fixtures and décor saved for future restoration of the original home. Since Angelica’s identity as Nigela is a secret, she can only go there very early or late when no workers are present. Tricia came with her, but they didn’t get far before finding Sanjay, the project manager, lying dead in the butler’s pantry.

Later, Tricia went to the bus station to pick up the summer intern they hired for the Chamber of Commerce, of which they were co-presidents. David was looking forward to this summer in a charming village while learning a vital service to the community. Tricia would oversee David.

One thing David read about before arriving was the high rate of murder. Another is how Tricia had helped solve many of them. When he learned a murder occurred the morning he arrived, he wanted to be involved with Tricia in solving the murder even when she said she was staying out of this one. He wouldn’t take no for an answer, so Tricia wouldn’t, either, even when it angered Angelica.

There is an eclectic collection of characters, and I was happy to see Tricia’s employees and Angelica’s son and his family. Each are defined through conversations and behaviors. The prior novel in the series told how Tricia and the new chief of police, Ian, knew each other from before, but this time, it was as if they never knew each other. I did appreciate the list of characters; as otherwise I keep a cheat sheet of my own.

Perhaps her actions result from grieving several recent deaths, but Tricia was very out of character this time. I didn’t like her attitudes or behaviors especially regarding Angelica and people she questioned about the murdered man. Angelica was also acting out of character when it came to Tricia, as if they were squabbling children.

The mystery was intriguing and challenging, holding my attention throughout. There was a good number of suspects, most with similar possible motives. Plot twists kept my focus on the case, and I was happy when Ian finally shared some of the information the police had garnered and who their person of interest was. I was very surprised, ultimately, at who the killer was and at the motive behind it and relieved that it would finally be over. I love how this author can still surprise me! The end was satisfactory. I recommend this book and series, and look forward to visiting Booktown again!