Tori Cannon is having a really rotten day in With Baited Breath by Lorraine Bartlett. She returns with her grandfather, Herb, to his bait shop in Lotus Bay near Erie, New York after burying her grandmother. Then, as they examine Herb’s house that Tori’s grandma filled with her packrat junk, they open the door to the shuttered motel the couple once ran and discover the murdered body of Michael Jackson, the local handyman. No one can understand who might have had it in for Jackson, though racist attitudes about his being the sole African American in the area, run in a subtle undercurrent among the community. Having lost her job as high school English teacher due to cuts in funding and thus having plenty of time on her hands, Tori determines to do what it takes to fix up the shop and get the motel running again.
But Tori isn’t alone as she deals with her issues. Her best friend, Kelly, comes to help her get things started, so they make progress in painting the bait shop, which increases its sales quite a bit. Kelly soon falls in love with a decrepit Victorian house near the bait shop that needs a lot of work for her to turn it into a B&B. So when Anyssa, Michael Jackson’s daughter, a home renovation specialist, shows up in town, Kathy pulls her in to help examine the house. As they discuss the murder of Anyssa’s father, one strange thing that keeps popping up is that Jackson has been avoiding going out on the water at night lately because he has been reporting seeing strange lights, which no one else has noticed. And since the police do not seem very interested in working the case of her father’s murder, the three women get to work in looking for clues.
This book comes across as a lighter mystery than typical mystery books. Instead, the book tells of life in Lotus Bay and its occupants. It contains some vivid lessons about the plight of those in rural areas that have slowly gone downhill. Now Lotus Bay has fallen prey to this same phenomenon. The people of the community also live a fairly isolated life despite depending upon tourism for their existence.
The audiobook is performed by Heather Masters. I did feel that the accents she uses did not fit the setting of the book. Masters seems to speak many times with a mild southern accent and never with the New York accent that the characters would use.
While With Baited Breath is not as strong a book as others I’ve read by Bartlett, the book still is enjoyable written. I liked the details found in each character and the development we see as each grows. I had fun and enjoyable times listening to the book and look forward to the next in the series. I give the book four stars.
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