The Walled Flower
Victoria Square, Book #2
By Lorraine Bartlett
Author Website: lorrainebartlett(.)com
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Jeanie
If Katie Bonner’s late husband hadn’t invested all their savings in the crafts fair Artisans Alley, the Webster mansion could have been hers to remodel into a bed-and-breakfast. Instead that dream belongs to another young couple. But that dream becomes a nightmare when a skeleton is discovered sealed in the walls of the mansion. The bones belong to Helen Winston, who went missing twenty-two years ago. Heather’s aunt, a jewelry vendor at Artisans Alley, asks Kate for help finding her niece’s murderer. The case may be cold, but the killer is very much alive-and ready to go to any lengths to keep past secrets buried… (Goodreads)
I really enjoyed this second book in the Victoria Square mystery series! Katie Bonner works hard to breathe new life into Artisan’s Alley within the Square since her husband’s unexpected death. She and Chad had saved every penny for years, hoping to purchase the historic Webster Mansion and turn it into a B&B. For a reason he never explained, Chad took all their savings without talking with Katie and invested in Artisan’s Alley, where local craftspeople rented booths to sell hand-made crafts and antiques. The Webster Mansion is within walking distance of Artisan’s Alley, and Katie can see it most days.
The day the For Sale sign came down, Katie’s anger returned for her loss of the home she longed to restore. She brought a pizza to the new owners, Janice and Toby, and visited without revealing her broken dream. Toby offered Katie a turn at taking out a wall with the sledgehammer, and she enjoys the brief respite from her anger. Until behind the wall, a skeleton is revealed. One with long blond hair and a unique locket. The remains of the poor girl have no clothing, only layers of plastic wrap.
People throughout Victoria Square come to see why the police are at the mansion. Rose, 75, is a close friend of Katie and one of the vendors at the Alley and wants to know if the skeleton was identified. Only one person had gone missing from McKinlay Mills in over 20 years, Rose’s niece, Heather, missing for 22 years. At the time, police thought she had run away to New York City as it was her dream, but she would never have left without letting her parents or Rose know. When Rose ID’s the locket as one that she had made especially for her, the hope she had of Heather coming back one day was shattered. Back in the day, the mansion had been renovated into apartments, and Heather and best friend Barbie had both lived there.
Rose wants Katie to help find who killed her niece, as she doesn’t trust the local law enforcement on the long-cold case. Rose and Katie visit Barbie. She is holding an adorable granddaughter and won’t let the ladies into her tiny old mobile home. Barbie had to work immediately after high school and was unable to keep up any more with Heather.
Barbie called, then met, with Katie. She is terrified, saying someone threatened her granddaughter. She told Katie that being caught talking with her could result in her murder, that she had arranged for evidence to be sent to Katie if something happens to her. She spooks and runs out without giving up much more than that Heather was not the sweet girl everyone thought she was. The next day, Barbie is found murdered inside the Webster Mansion, and the new owners put the home up for sale.
Katie and Rose discover that the man who had been Heather’s boyfriend in college, Jeremy Richards, was now Rick Jeremy, famous move director, now coming to Rochester to receive a lifetime achievement award. How weird, or fortuitous, was it that the man would be in town so soon after discovering Heather’s murder – as it was determined she was murdered, strangled.
Katie has less than two weeks left in her apartment, with no time to look for another place to live. Andy, her boyfriend and owner of Angelo’s Pizzeria, wants her to move in with him but she isn’t ready for that yet. Ideally, she would like to find a small house to rent or for Andy to rent her the small apartment over the pizzeria, but he has other plans for it. One of the shop owners asks Katie to fill in as her matron of honor at the last minute. Not only is the dress she has to wear one of the ugliest Katie has seen, the 50+ year old bride wants the full treatment, from a bridal shower to a list of other responsibilities. One of the vendors inside Artisan’s Alley, a crabby, obnoxious woman, accuses the woman in the neighboring booth of stealing her merchandise and damaging antique dolls she sells. Katie barely has time to turn around, much less learn who killed not only Heather, but Barbie.
Katie is very well defined, and we learn more about her and her friends and vendors at Victoria Square. Other characters are defined as well as necessary. I appreciate Katie and Rose, their loyalty to friends, and hard work ethic. Andy’s work ethic is as strong as Katie’s as he continues to build his business. He seems like a perfect match as he helps Katie relax even as she makes an off-the-cuff suggestion for his business that he decides to explore. Rose cares about everyone, and even with her heartache over losing Heather, she is actively involved with helping Katie find the bad guy(s).
The author has finely-executed this cozy mystery, including plot twists that change who the bad guy(s) might be and at least a couple red herrings that I followed. Katie juggles many eggs throughout the novel, managing everything with skill and determination. Her kindness to the new owners of Webster Mansion, despite her anger at having her dream snatched away, is exemplary. There are many characters throughout the novel, as there would be in a place such as Victoria Square; a list of characters at the beginning of the book might be helpful to both new readers and as a refresher to the returning readers. I wouldn’t trade a one of them, though – I enjoy it exactly as it is! This reader was unable to discover who the real bad guy was and was completely surprised to see how many people had been involved in the knotty mysteries, including one I had only briefly considered. All loose ends were tied up, and the ending was satisfactory. I highly recommend this exciting, fast-paced cozy mystery to those who enjoy confounding mysteries and cold cases.