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Murder Is Binding by Lorna Barrett
Cover Artist: Teresa Fasolino
Review by Gayle Surrette
Berkley Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425219584
Date: 01 April 2008 List Price $6.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Interview with Author / Show Official Info /

Stoneham, New Hampshire, was being by-passed, its downtown outdated and with shops closing; a story familiar to most of small town America. But other towns didn't have Bob Kelly, who had a dream of revitalizing the town and his business by turning Stoneham into American's version of Hay-on-Wye. Tricia Miles jumped at the chance to relocate her mystery bookstore to Stoneham with it's lower overhead, beautiful scenery, and a location near several major cities. It seemed perfect except for cranky cookbook store owner Doris Gleason and the fact that her sister was coming to visit. Tricia didn't think things could get worse until Doris turned up dead and the police seem to be looking only for a way to pin it on Tricia.

The first in a new series, Murder is Binding has to more than be a good mystery; it has to set the reader up with interesting supporting characters, a lively environment that can support murders and mayhem over time, and entice the reader to come back for each succeeding book. I think it succeeds on all fronts. There's a delightful range of characters to help keep up the interesting in a long running series. Each person is developed enough that you can tell there will be interesting revelations about their backgrounds in future books. The town of Stoneham is a good size to support a mystery series. And, most importantly, Murder is Binding is a complex mystery that can be figured out fairly early but has enough diverting clues that you keep thinking, that maybe you just might be wrong afterall.

The murder of Doris Gleason is front and center, and Tricia must solve it, since the police are so convinced, all evidence to the contrary, that she's guilty, they aren't even looking for another suspect. There are also several other threads that need to be followed up, some related to the central mystery and some simply coincidental. It's the muti-threaded nature of the story that keeps the interest high throughout.

The by-play between the sisters, Tricia and Angelica, adds a delightful side note to the mystery. I was reminded of the Southern Sisters Mysteries not that these sister were cut from the same cloth but that the interplay of sibling rivalry, love, and annoyance give the same feeling of family that adds warmth to the books. I know I'll want to visit this village and Tricia's bookstore again.

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