Monday, June 22, 2009

String of Lies

I just finished reading Mary Ellen Hughes String of Lies, the second book in her Craft Corner Mystery series, and enjoyed it thoroughly. I usually like to read series in order, but somehow I missed the first in this series, Wreath of Deception. I plan to rectify that as soon as possible so I can move on to the third book, Paper-Thin Alibi. The books obviously can be read separately since I don't feel as though I missed anything by not having read the books in order. But still, I'll have to read the first one before I can move on to the third. I'm anal like that, unfortunately.

After Jo McCallister's husband died in an automobile accident, she moved to a small town in Maryland and opened an arts and craft store. In this book Jo's Craft Corner is beginning to prosper and Jo is feeling a little more secure. But then she finds that a local developer has been buying up some of the stores on her block. Is hers one of them? Her landlord is out of state and try as she might, she can't get in touch with her landlord to find out. Her attempts to contact the developer personally get nowhere, so she decides she has no choice but to try to catch him at one of his work sites. She finds him there, but unfortunately, the man has been murdered. And to complicate Jo's life further, her contractor friend Dan and his employee Xavier are both suspects. Xavier, a legal immigrant with a pregnant wife who's due to deliver just any day, becomes the scapegoat. If Xavier is arrested and prosecuted, her friend Dan's business will suffer even more as more people cancel their jobs. So Jo enlists the aid of her regular craft group to ferret out the truth.

This is a cozy, so we aren't really expecting terribly complex characters, but Jo and her fellow crafters felt real and they reminded me of some of the folks I knew from my own small hometown. I especially enjoyed her portrayal of folks my age (60+) and older! We're witty, smart, caring, and still involved in our communities. Sounds about right to me!

One of my pet peeves regarding mysteries is the portrayal of a vicious adversarial relationship between the police and the amateur sleuth. Disagreement on the case is believable and mutual disapproval is expected. After all, we know very well that our heroine is not a detective. That's the whole point of a cozy, isn't it? But sometimes the fighting between amateurs and professionals gets downright nasty and not only becomes tiresome and irritating, it interferes with the story. If that happens, I usually quit reading and sometimes drop the author from by TBR list.

That was not a problem with String of Lies, I am very happy to report. I appreciated the fact that Jo wasn't constantly being harangued and/or belittled and demeaned by the police for her investigative efforts. There were the obligatory comments about letting the police do their job, but no serious rancor or disrespect in either direction.

On the other hand, since my dad was a state trooper, I appreciate that the police didn't come off as bumbling idiots, either. I thought this book had a nice balance and I'm looking forward to reading the others in the series.

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