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Murder on the Half Shelf
Booktown Mystery #6
Lorna Barrett

July 3, 2012 / 978-0425247754
Cozy Mystery

Reviewed by Beth E. McKenzie

The cozy mystery genre has really changed in the last 30 years since Virginia Rich wrote the landmark Cooking School Murders. Back then a cozy usually had a sweet little granny, maid or housewife that was nosy and interfering with "real detective work". Also the murder, if they even described it, was very clean,no gore. Now cozies are divided into subgenres, culinary being one, with even more sub-subgenres based on the main character's special interest with B&B, psychics, knitters, quilters, Bookstore, herbalists, historians, veterinarians, cat sitters, hunt masters, Teashop owners, , , and puzzles makers, , , , only starting the list.

Something that hasn't changed is for a cozy to be enjoyable you have to care about the characters, be intrigued by the mystery, and it helps to learn something about the specialty. I really couldn't get into it with this book. The murder victim, Pippa Comfort, is the manager of a new B&B in Stoneham, New Hampshire. Because the inn is opening soon 4 weekend getaways for 2 are given away at the Chamber of Commerce meeting as a shakedown for the staff. Pippa greets Tricia and Angelica when they arrive in the first few pages and she is dead by the end of the first chapter. We come to learn thatshe's not a bad person, but she also isn't that appealing.

I had the highest hopes for the bookstore chatter and the reading group. I love vintage mysteries. I anticipated a lively discussion about Georgette Heyer or Thorne Smith and why they are still popular today. But all anybody wanted to discuss with Tricia was their personal problems, the murder, and her miserable lout of an ex-boyfriend.

The mystery isn't exceptionally compelling either. While you don't know who did it until the end, I didn't particularly care when I found out. The murder is a Maguffin; an excuse to move the series along. It gives characters a pretext to gossip with Tricia and for her to be tight-lipped, for Tricia to fight with her boyfriend, and to set up the next book and new characters. This is one of the hazards of the modern cozy. Nobody writes just one. An author is expected to write an epic with an overarching story for how the protagonist's life changes through a series of books. I really hope poor Tricia's life changes, and soon.

Reviews of other titles in this series

Murder is Binding, No 1
Sentenced to Death, No 5
Murder on the Half Shelf, No 6

Reviewed 2012