5 star rating
To Helen Back
A River Road Mystery, Book #1
By Susan McBride
ISBN#  9780062359759
Author’s Website:

Brought to you by OBS reviewer JoAnne


When Milton Grone turns up dead in tiny River Bend, Illinois, nearly all the would-be suspects have the perfect alibi: attending Thursday night’s town meeting. And as Milton was hardly beloved, plenty of folks had a reason to do him in …

Grone’s next-door neighbor was furious about a fence that encroached on her property, among other wicked deeds. A pair of zealous tree huggers wanted Grone’s hide for selling a parcel of pristine land to a water park. Grone’s current and ex-wife both wanted a cut of the profits, which Grone seemed unwilling to share. Even the town preacher knew Grone’s soul was beyond saving.

Though most of River Bend would rather reward the killer than hang him, Sheriff Biddle’s not about to let this one go … and neither is Helen Evans. With a penchant for puzzles and an ear for innuendo, Helen quickly fingers the culprit before Biddle puts the wrong suspect in jail.


Milton Grone is not well-liked in River Bend; in fact, he’s pretty much hated by everyone in the town.  He’s shot at his neighbor’s cat and yells at the elderly woman; he mistreats both his ex- and present wives and refuses to have anything to do with his children; he’s rich but miserly and lives like a pauper, refusing to spend anything.

He has sold some land to a company that wants to build a waterpark, and the townspeople are upset because it will destroy the environment in that area, yet no one knows how to stop him.  But one night while everyone else (including his wife) is at a town meeting, Milton is killed.  At first both the sheriff and doctor think it might have been an accident, that Milton merely had a heart attack, fell, and hit his head on a rock; because the doctor knows that Milton had a bad heart.  Yet not too soon after that, the doctor discovers something that shows Milton was murdered: he was struck on the head with something heavy, and it was staged to look like an accident.

In steps widow Helen Evans. With a mind that operates much like Christie’s Miss Marple (as the sheriff says), she is trying to keep her friend Felicity, Milton’s next door neighbor and owner of the shot-at cat, from being taken in as the murderer, so decides find the real killer herself.

I liked this mystery: It was fast, detailed, and a good beginning to a series. Helen is unassuming, yet she notices things and has a way of putting herself in the middle of the action without seeming pushy. There wasn’t a lot of character development as of yet, but since this is the first book in the series, I am hoping to see more in the next.

The only thing I didn’t care for was the fact that Helen bemoans the idea that someone might injure a bird in a tree, yet sees nothing wrong with allowing her own cat to roam outdoors and kill small creatures. I would like to see her opt to keep her pet indoors, where it would be safer and have a much longer lifespan (yes, I am a huge animal lover!).

I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys a light mystery with likeable characters, and look forward to the next in the series.