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Normally, a free night at Stoneham, New Hampshire's new bed & breakfast would have been a tempting opportunity for romance for bookstore owner Tricia Miles. Unfortunately, the evening is being provided through a raffled drawing won by Trica's sister Angelica, who is on the outs with her boyfriend, so Tricia finds herself dragged along as a substitute bag handler and dog smuggler/sitter.
Tricia is already quite conscious of her reputation of being the town's jinx and body-finder, so she's more than a little disturbed when Angelica's Bichon pulls her over to discover the body of Pippa Comfort, the B & B's new owner. What's even more shocking to Tricia, though, is the realization that Pippa's husband is actually the man Tricia once loved and believed was dead.
Tricia's involvement in the murder puts a halt on her budding relationship with the chief of police Grant Baker, which is frustrating but perhaps for the best as she sorts out her feelings for Pippa's husband and now number one suspect.
While the charming town consisting of themed bookstores buzzes with gossip concerning the recent murder Tricia is distracted by her need to also hire a new assistant for her store, act as a marriage go-between for her other assistant, and watch her sister's televised cooking demonstration literally go up in flames.
Tricia Miles is an extremely likable and engaging heroine, which makes it all the more frustrating to watch her be manipulated and bullied by her narcissistic and self-centered sister. While Angelica is somewhat more redeemable compared to the earlier entries in this Booktown Mystery series, her moments of sisterly concerns are often overshadowed by her thoughtlessness. Thankfully, in this very character-driven mystery Barrett surrounds Tricia with other enjoyable residents of the tourist-reliant town. One does wish, though, that more was revealed about the extraordinarily fascinating past of Pippa as a former Playboy bunny.
Stoneham is a town that every book lover would love to believe could exist yet would probably never survive in this economic climate of e-readers and Amazon. With an ending that reveals a culprit and motive that does seem to come out of nowhere, readers may feel slighted that they have been virtually guaranteed to have been unable to predict the resolution. For many readers, this is a more desirable option than the alternative of the obvious villain being identified early by the reader. The ride will have been worth the somewhat rushed ending, though, as Barrett continues to write highly entertaining mysteries with delightfully quirky and yet very real characters.
This is a very fun, cozy, read for book lovers who enjoy delightful characters with a touch of mystery. Whether writing under the name Lorna Barrett, Lorraine Bartlett, or L.L. Bartlett, the author continues to create unique and engaging characters.
To enter to win a copy of Murder On The Half Shell, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Shell”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen August 11, 2012. U.S. residents only.