Breaking Ground: A Julie Williamson Mystery
by William Andrews
Review by Gayle Surrette
Islandport Press Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781934031384
Date: 01 June 2011 List Price $16.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Julie Williamson is settling in to her job as historical society director for the Ryland Historical Society. She's gotten over the events of Stealing History. She and her boyfriend Rich, a professor of history at the University of Maine, have set up a schedule of visits taking turns visiting each other on the weekends. There's also the frustration and excitement of being involved with the historical society board to build a new building for the society. But on the morning of the ground breaking ceremony, Julie finds the body of Mary Ellen Swanson at the site. Now she's involved in another murder – if only peripherally.
With Mary Ellen dead, all the historical society plans for the building are on hold. Mary Ellen, a board member and generous benefactor, was essentially paying for the building. Until the legal issues with her will are settled, everyone is on edge.
Andrews manages to put the reader in the middle of the action by using Julie as the point of view character. She's a transplant to Maine and, while in many ways it's not that different from where she grew up, she's always tripping over things she doesn't know. Everyone in a small town knows everything about everyone else. They don't need to talk about it because they all know it, and if they do mention it, it's almost as if they’re using a code that Julie doesn't know.
Many of the problems in solving the crime involve information that everyone knows that grew up in Ryland, but is unknown to those from away (not from Maine) or from other areas of the state.
It's this detail that makes the story so interesting because as Julie tries to come up with her list of people, events, and interrelationships, she's also realizing how much of an outsider she is, even though she's lived in Ryland for a year. As a native Mainer now living outside, I find this aspect of the story fascinating.
Breaking Ground is more of a psychological mystery harkening back to the classics of the genre. There's suspects, motives, and most of the suspects also had opportunity. So, who murdered Mary Ellen? You'll need to read Breaking Ground to find out but the well-developed characters and setting will make it very much worth your while.