In Chapter and Hearse by Lorna Barrett, the day has finally arrived for Angelica Miles’s cookbook release party, but her boyfriend, Bob Kelly, the local big property owner, has failed to make an appearance. Finally in frustration with Bob, Tricia, Angelica’s younger sister, goes across the street to the History Repeats Itself bookstore where Bob was due to collect his rent. Just as Tricia opens the door, she gets blown back in an explosion of the building. Bob is hurt but alive. But Jim Roth, owner of the bookstore, is nowhere to be found, likely disintegrated in the explosion. Police assume that someone let gas into the building, which Jim set off by lighting his cigarette.
As the locals try to respond to the explosion, Frannie Armstrong, the assistant in Angelica’s cooking store, loses control in wailing. It becomes apparent that she had a secret relationship with Jim. But she tells Tricia that Jim’s mother, with whom the 50- something man lived, prevented them from being together. The community ends up pulling together to save the books that could be salvaged from the store and support each other, while trying to locate the murderer.
Chapter and Hearse was an enjoyable addition to the Booktown Mystery Series. It has a fun plot, with creative twists and turns that keep us listening avidly. One special gift of Barrett’s is her ability to draw a community in which her mysteries are set. We feel that we get to know a wide range of people, which gives us plenty of suspects and people to interact with the main characters.
One theme of this book is the way people have their sense of pride in doing things for themselves. For example, Mr. Everett married Grace eight months earlier and is unhappy at the imbalance in their financial conditions, especially since Grace paid off his remaining debts. He feels it is accepting charity to take her money, even if she is his new wife. Deborah, another store owner, is overwhelmed by new motherhood and running her store all by herself, but she can’t bend her pride to allow Tricia to help help her by lending her Mr. Everett as an assistant. Further, Ginnie turns down Tricia’s offer to purchase Ginnie’s mortgage to allow her to keep her home.
One detail I enjoyed was the depiction by Angelica of the challenges of going on a book tour. She complains about the hardships of driving all over and staying in a different hotel bed each night. She even makes a point to stop at home in Stoneham for one night to avoid the discomforts of a hotel. This seems to be a fun commentary by the author, who has probably undergone many such book tours.
The audio edition of this book is performed by Cassandra Campbell, who does a strong job of narrating this book and taking us to Stoneham, NH with her. She uses effective accents, including for an Italian man coming to develop the property where the building exploded.
I appreciated the experience of listening to Chapter and Hearse, a book that starts dramatically and continues this way throughout. It has plenty of great moments and great characters that entertain throughout. I give this book five stars.
Disclaimer: I received this book for free for review purposes but that had no influence on the content of my review.
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