Another Review at MyShelf.Com

Publisher: Perseverance Press
Release Date: April 2003
ISBN: 1-880284-65-0
Format Reviewed: Paperback
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Genre: Mystery
Reviewed: 2003
Reviewer: Kristin Johnson
Reviewer Notes: Reviewer Kristin Johnson is the author of Butterfly Wings: A Love Story, Christmas Cookies Are For Giving.

Death, Bones and Stately Homes
A Tori Miracle Pennsylvania Dutch Mystery
By Valerie Malmont 

     A mystery book with recipes? This is a new twist on the "cozy mystery" sub-genre. The idea of small, respectable towns having deadly secrets is not new, nor is the plucky ex-New York journalist uncovering buried scandals---darn those meddling kids! In this case, darn small-town paper reporter Tori Miracle, who uncovers a literal skeleton in the closet while she's assigned to write about the (fictional) town of Lickin Creek's stately homes for the June house tour. Tori's best friend tests the bonds of friendship by convincing Tori, who's been responsible for the death of a beloved senator, among other mishaps, to keep quiet about the mysterious skeleton until after the house tour is over.

     Make no bones about it: The skeleton is to Tori and the town of Lickin Creek what the Elephant Man's bones were to Michael Jackson. Speaking of Jacko, the skeleton in the closet, one half of a local Romeo-and-Juliet legend, resembles the Gloved One more than a lovelorn bridegroom. The community pillars of Lickin Creek who want to preserve the legend don't appreciate Tori poking into their business.

     Several attempts on her life, an ex-con minister obsessed with showing her how easily someone could get to her, a great red-herring escaped convict, and a murdered druggist complicate Tori's quest. Add a conveniently-thwarted romance with the local AWOL sheriff and an elderly Paul Newman-type courting Tori, as well as a minor subplot involving her father taken hostage in the Middle East, and Tori's quest to purchase her dream home, which mysteriously gets tripped up by the banker whose aunt owned the house with the skeleton. At times, the mystery feels as overstuffed as the trunk inside which Tori eventually discovers a missing bride, The Juliet-meets-"Sliver" of the local star-crossed couple.

     This book, meandering through an eccentric, likable cast of characters, is not for readers who like trim, fast-paced mysteries of the James Patterson kind. The pace of the plot slows in places, but the setting's quirks and Tori's talent for trouble spice up the tale. Several Lickin Creek recipes complete the cozy, homey atmosphere.

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