Monday, April 8, 2013

Mayhem in Maine

Sarah Graves
Bantam Books
April 30, 2013

I have been vaguely aware of this series for a long time, but had no idea that A Bat in the Belfry is number 16 in the Home Repair is Homicide Series, or that the series is set in Eastport, Maine. Now I have a whole lot of catching up to do. Jacoba (Jake) Tiptree is a transplant from New York City, where she was a money manager for some of the worst sharks on Wall Street. As the book opens she has been in Eastport for 15 years and has seen some hard times from her abusive ex-husband and son, Sam, who went through a period of addiction and wild behavior in his teens. However, Sam is now sober, and Jake is happily remarried. She and her partner, Ellie, have a home renovation business that grew out of Jake's battles with her own very old house.

A Bat in Belfry opens in a very untraditional way for a "cozy" mystery- the gruesome murder of a 14 year old girl in the church belfry. Somehow, the church bell, which hasn't rung in decades, starts to ring and the local Police Chief goes up to investigate. Nothing like this has ever happened in Eastport. By the time the murderer is caught the dark underside of Eastport is fully exposed. Jake's houseguest, a longtime friend of Sam, is the main suspect and Jake must get involved in order to clear him, and to save Sam from mortal danger. We also meet Lizzie Snow,  a hard-edged former Boston detective who is in Eastport for her own reasons. I am hoping thtat Lizzie gets her own series- she is a fascinating character.

Sarah Graves did a great job of bringing a new reader into the series, without a lot of burdensome back story. A Bat in the Belfry could stand on it's own, but I am so interested by the characters that I am planning to read the series from the beginning. The action is non-stop and the mystery itself a real puzzler.

RATING- 4.5 Hammers

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