This week we visit Maine for a little mischief. This is the second book in a new series that is mildly paranormal by the author of the Pennyfoot Hotel mysteries. We seem to be tied in the poll regarding a rating system on the book reviews! Hmmmm.
Copyright: July 2012 (Berkley) 288 pgs
Series: 2nd in Raven's Nest Mysteries
Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy, mild paranormal
Main Characters: Clara Quinn
Setting: Modern day, Finn's Harbor, Maine
Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review
Clara Quinn works afternoons at her cousin's bookstore, The Raven's Nest. Clara and her cousin Stephanie are more like sisters than cousins, except Stephanie never inherited the "Quinn sense," which is like a psychic sense. As a result Clara has spent most of her life denying her abilities so Stephanie doesn't feel short-changed. Clara is particularly trying to ignore her Quinn Sense because it never gave a hint that her finance was such a snake. That explains why Clara is treading carefully with Rick Sanders, the owner of the hardware store across the street from Raven's Nest. But when an unknown dead man is found in Rick's truck bed and the entire town, including the mayor, is convinced Rick is a killer, Clara believes the vision she saw of the murder and that Rick is innocent. Could her fondness for Rick be clouding her judgement, or is Rick is being framed by a clever killer?
Clara is an okay character who carries baggage from her time in New York and a relationship gone bad. Several times in the book Clara's mother comments on how NY has changed her. Clara clearly has trust issues, with men and with her "gift." It is a bit frustrating that she doesn't want anything to do with her gift, then gets mad because it fails her when she does want it. Rick, the love interest and prime suspect, is a good character as far as he goes. The glimpses we get of him are not much.
Cousin Stephanie was either yelling at her kids, running out of the store, or making excuses to investigate. I don't know what to make of Stephanie yet. It is a bit surprising how little this family does as a family. Clara's mother, Jessie, comes across a bit harsh of Clara most of the story. Jessie is recently widowed and that may be part of it, but I don't care for the dysfunctional dynamic. Towards the end of the book, the relationship seemed to gain a little balance which I hope caries forward. The break-out star of the book is the wayward, gentle-giant dog, Tatters, that Clara takes in from Rick when he becomes the main suspect. The dog is strong, just a little willful, and a misunderstood sweetheart. The depiction of Tatters is golden and I couldn't help but think of Marmaduke.
In this particular edition to the series I didn't get much of a real sense for the town as a setting in its own right. The descriptions are fine and give a good form as a stage for the action, but I love when a place is so strong it becomes a character in itself. That was not the case in this book. I understand the first book in the series utilized the atmosphere of the bookstore's Edgar Allan Poe and metaphysical themes to good effect, but that was not in evidence this time around.
The plot was revealed as more information about the victim was uncovered in the course of the book and similar for who the killer really was. The motive and killer were fairly well done and straightforward. The confrontation with the killer is a bit contrived, but definitely rings true to the cousin's penchant for mad-capped adventures that has been built up through the book via reminiscing. The wrap up is short, just a couple of pages, but shows Clara working on trust.
This is a fun, lite cozy read with minor flaws along with some good points. Maybe read an excerpt before buying.