Handbook for Homicide
Booktown Mystery #14
By Lorna Barrett
Author’s website: lornabarrett.com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
Tricia Miles must swim against the tide to catch a killer when Haven’t Got A Clue’s assistant manager is accused of murder in the latest entry to Lorna Barrett’s New York Times bestselling Booktown series.
Haven’t Got A Clue bookshop owner Tricia Miles’s relationship is on the rocks. After a not-so-fun vacation with her on-again-off-again lover, Marshall Cambridge, Tricia’s hoping for smooth sailing back in Stoneham. Unfortunately Booktown greets her not with blue skies but with another body.
When Tricia’s assistant manager, Pixie, finds homeless vet Susan Morris’s body behind Haven’t Got A Clue, Pixie’s checkered past makes her the prime suspect. Tricia sets out to clear Pixie’s name armed with only an anchor insignia earring found at the scene of the crime.
As Tricia digs deeper she discovers Susan was involved in a scandal right before retiring from the Navy—but since nobody in the village knows Susan, even Tricia’s one lead is in danger of drying up. With family drama brewing in the background and all of Stoneham convinced her manager is a murderer, Tricia knows she has to get to the bottom of the case soon before Pixie’s life is sunk.
It has been a while since I’ve visited Haven’t Got a Clue in Stoneham, NH, so one thing I very much appreciate is how there are just enough details about the characters and town to feel as if I haven’t missed a thing. It can be read as a standalone, but one will definitely want to read the earlier novels in the series. This highly successful series appeals to me as a mystery lover, as do the amazing characters. The New Hampshire setting sounds quaint yet beautiful, the characters are interesting and well-defined, and the mystery kept me guessing.
Tricia, owner of Haven’t Got a Clue, a vintage mystery bookstore, and her gentleman friend Marshall, have just returned from Ireland. Marshall was leading a travel tour, so it was not really a vacation for him. Tricia enjoyed seeing Ireland, and wants to see it again, but probably not with a tour group. She is considering when to discuss their relationship. They are comfortable together, but neither seem to have a passion for each other, or the things they do when spending time together.
Tricia’s first stop is at her bookstore. She is greeted by Pixie, her assistant manager, and Miss Marple, her fluffy gray cat. After talking about the attempted break-in at the store a few days ago and how the shop in general has been, Pixie took the garbage out behind the store. A very upset, rattled Pixie came back in. Tricia went back out with her to a dreadful find. There was a penny loafer with a foot still inside of it. The foot of someone who was dead. Someone that Pixie recognized, a woman named Susan Morris. Susan had been homeless, living out of her car; they had met in a nearby town. Pixie had given Susan the shoes she was wearing, which is what helped identify her.
The police chief and Tricia’s long-term ex-boyfriend Grant wasn’t happy to learn that she was involved with another dead body. Tricia has helped with many murder investigations in the past few years; it was one of the things that made their relationship challenging. Pixie is very concerned that she could be considered a suspect due to her record, having spent time in prison on more than one occasion. Since meeting and working for Angelica, Tricia’s older sister, then for Tricia, she has stopped getting into trouble and gotten married a great guy. Someone who has been in prison is often suspected first, if not arrested and charged, for an easy case closure.
Pixie can’t get involved with asking anyone questions about Susan. The more Tricia learned, the more she looked around, including going to a nearby camp where several homeless veterans live. Her heart and Angelica’s were burdened that our veterans are homeless, as Susan had been, and they were prepared to help where possible. In the meantime, Tricia went into Haven’t Got a Clue late one evening when someone tried to break in again, and the police chief took this attempt seriously.
The characters are thoroughly enjoyable; I like Tricia and Angelica for their intelligence and heart for helping others. I also like Pixie and Hank, who have been willing to risk change and rejection to pursue better lives. All are defined as well as necessary for their roles, and I do hope Hank joins the gang of people we see regularly in future novels.
This is a town I would enjoy, being “Booktown” with genre-specific bookstores that would be a delight to spend time in. Plot twists kept me guessing, considering who could have killed Susan and if it was the same person who kept trying to break into the bookstore. I had a couple of culprits in mind and was happy with the unique resolution! All loose ends are tied up except for one. I’m looking forward to the next in series, and highly recommend Handbook for Homicide!
*OBS would like to thank the publisher for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review as part of their ongoing blog tour*