Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Review: Murder Is Binding by Lorna Barrett

Murder is Binding by Lorna Barrett
Berkley, 2008, 288 pages

Plot: This is the first in Barrett's "Booktown" series, set in fictional Stoneham, NH, a town full of bookstores. When Tricia Miles, owner of the mystery bookshop, finds the body of the next-door cookbook shop, she becomes the sheriff's main suspect in the murder. She must delve into a variety of small-town intrigues and secrets while dealing with her difficult sister and keeping her business afloat. The plot was good: nothing particularly shocking, but a fair number of twists and turns that kept me reading.

Characters: Tricia is a likeable character, and I'm looking forward to reading more about her in future books. She's kind and hard-working but not perfect, and she's less ridiculously naive (about things like going alone in the dark into suspect's houses and such) than many main characters of cozies are. As always with amateur detectives, Barrett will need to keep finding hooks to get Tricia involved in murder investigations - she was a suspect in this one, but (hopefully) that can't happen every time. There is a potential relationship with a newspaper editor, so maybe he will pull her in? Hmm. That editor was probably my favorite of the secondary characters, so I hope he sticks around. There are an assortment of other secondary characters who will provide for plenty of plots and subplots in future books, including other bookstore owners and Tricia's employees. Tricia has a rather fraught relationship with her sister, Angelica, and at the end of the novel Angelica moves to Stoneham, so there will be no shortage of family angst to draw upon.

Writing: The writing is fairly solid and serviceable but not particularly great. Since it's a first book, I'll give some leniency for roughness. It's certainly not bad, just not strikingly good, either. It could have used a better copy-editor, too - there were some typos. And, most annoyingly, both times that the phrase "Hear, hear!" was used, it was misspelled as "Here, here!" That's one of my pet peeves.

Grade: B

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