Tuesday, January 27, 2009

REVIEW: Murder Is Binding

Title: Murder Is Binding
Author: Lorna Barrett
ISBN: 9780425219584/ Berkley Prime Crime, 2008
Cozy Mystery, #1 Booktown mystery series
Rating: C

First Line: "I tell you, Trish, we're all victims."

Stoneham, New Hampshire, was a dying town until real estate entrepreneur Bob Kelly got the idea to turn it into a "Booktown" modeled after Hay-on-Wye in the UK. Divorcee Tricia Miles decided to folllow her dream and moved there six months ago, opening a mystery book shop called Haven't Got a Clue and living in a loft apartment on the third floor. She's made a friend or two, but her next-door neighbor, Doris Gleason, isn't one of them. Doris, owner of The Cookery, sells cookbooks but finds business is tough. (Probably because she never read How to Win Friends and Influence People.) When Tricia finds The Cookery on fire one night and stumbles over Doris's body, she immediately finds herself as the local sheriff's prime suspect, and it's up to her to clear her own name.

Murder Is Binding is a promising start to a new cozy mystery series. Having been able to wander around Hay-on-Wye on my own for almost an entire day, the idea of a "booktown" in a small New England village appealed to me. Tricia is a likable character, and it's interesting to see her slowly change from a big city dweller to someone who lives in a small town. Her employees, her cat (Miss Marple), and some of the townsfolk are well-drawn and interesting. And with the arrival of her hated older sister and their strained relationship, future books are set up to explore these sibling dynamics. However, the weakness in the book is the plot. At first Tricia seems to choose her suspects by whether or not she likes them, and she didn't really strike me as that naive. It was too easy to figure out whodunit, and the ham-handed small town sheriff is a convention so old that it creaks.

Although there are some problems with the plotting, the setting and the characters--the strongest draws for cozy mystery lovers--are there and are very good. I'm looking forward to seeing what Barrett does in the next book in the series.

[Note: I forgot to mention that recipes are included in the back of the book. If you love to cook, it certainly wouldn't hurt to take a look at them. On the other hand, I hate to cook, which is probably why I forgot to mention them in the first place!]


  1. Nice review. I love the cover!! I'll keep this series on my radar, because one can never have enough cozy mystery series going at once.

  2. Why on earth has it taken me so long to find this blog?!!!

  3. Beth--one thing that I forgot to mention in my review (which calls for editing now) is that there are recipes included in the back. I know that cooking doesn't interest you at all....

    Kit--perhaps because I've been flying beneath the radar? For whatever reason, I'm glad you've found me! Your blog has a tendency to make me laugh, and then my Lancashire hubby has to ask me what I'm laughing about.


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