Mainly Murder Press, 2010. ISBN 978-0-982-58996-0.
Reviewed by Barbara Heming
Posted on 04/14/2011
In her debut novel, Jessie Crockett creates the world of a tiny New Hampshire town, Winslow Falls, populated by a plucky middle-aged sleuth and a delightful cast of quirky townspeople.
When Gwen Fifield, Postmistress and Assistant Fire Chief, responds to a fire at the historical museum a few days before Christmas, she discovers a body in the smoldering remains of the building. The fire chief takes one look at the body and collapses with a heart attack, leaving this 47-year-old widow in charge. Much to the dismay of the other firefighters, she calls in the state fire marshal to take over the investigation. The town's residents are quick to blame the DaSilvas, an immigrant family that has recently moved to town, especially when an artifact from the museum is traced to them. Gwen is not convinced and must face the possibility that not everyone in town is who they seem to be. Her neighbors' hidden ambition, greed, and jealousy emerge, along with Gwen's growing attraction to the handsome fire marshal as she works with him to solve the crime.
What raises this novel above the usual light cozy is Crockett's ability to draw a parallel between the quickness with which the citizens of Winslow Falls blame the outsiders, the immigrants, and the same attitude in the 19th century. As the investigation progresses, Gwen discovers the town's connection to The Know Nothing Party, aka The American Party, which appeared in the United States in the mid-1800s. The membership and practices of the party were secret, so when questioned members stated, "I know nothing." Their major focus was an anti-immigrant stance due to the growing numbers of Catholics arriving from other lands. I was not aware of this moment in American history and appreciated the light-handed way in which the author wove the information into the plot, allowing the reader to compare attitudes then and now.
Crockett's style is clear and fresh with a touch of humor in the descriptions. Her characters are just quirky enough to avoid stereotypes, even as they are recognizable in any small town. Hopefully, this novel is just the first of a series. I look forward to spending more time in Winslow Falls.
Read an excerpt from this book.
Jessie Crockett is nearly a lifelong member of the Granite State where she lives with her husband and children in a village so small that most other New Hampshire residents have never heard of it. When not working on her next murder mystery, Jessie mentors young writers at the elementary school. She loves to hear from readers. Visit her website.
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