Author: Lorraine Bartlett
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime, 2011
Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages
Genre: Cozy mystery, Amateur Sleuth, #1 Victoria Square mystery
Source: Purchased from The Poisoned Pen.
First Line: Ezra Hilton lay sprawled at the bottom step of the staircase, facedown in a puddle of his own congealed blood.
Recently widowed, Katie Bonner has a job she loathes and a small interest in Artisans Alley, a collection of booths for artisans in a renovated apple warehouse. Becoming the manager of Artisans Alley was one of the last items on her wishlist-- if it even made the cut at all. But that's just what happens when Ezra Hilton is found dead on the premises. Although the linchpin of the entire Victoria Square shopping district in this small town close to the shore of Lake Ontario in upstate New York, Hilton's stodgy, old-fashioned management has Artisans Alley teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. If it goes under, the entire shopping district will follow in its wake.
As Katie takes over from Ezra, she discovers that there are details about his death that just don't add up... and she'd better break out her calculator before she becomes the next body in line.
The cast of characters shines brightly in this series beginner. Katie is feisty when she needs to be, and it's satisfying to watch her start to come out of her shell and make new friends. She's got a management style that is a proven winner. She's open to suggestions from others, listens to them, incorporates the best ideas into her plans-- and doesn't take credit for work she didn't do. Katie doesn't always get it right, though. She's been a bit of a hermit since her husband died, and she gets the wrong idea about someone in town a time or two. These "wrong ideas" force Katie to interact with the other characters more so we get to know them all better. Two characters that normally get glossed over a bit in mysteries (the killer and the police officer in charge of the investigation) were given depth in A Crafty Killing. Bartlett puts her winning touch on all.
If you're looking for craft ideas and tips, this isn't the book for you. This is a book for people who love casts of well-drawn characters, and who like to witness the process of turning a business loser into a business success. Once Katie has Artisans Alley on firmer ground, who knows, there may be craft tips; however, I'm more than happy with what's there: a fast-paced plot, an interesting setting, and a marvelous cast of characters. Bartlett has her stage set, and I'm ready to see more action unfold.