Saturday, March 16, 2013

A Small Case of Murder (Joshua Thornton Mystery #1), by Lauren Carr (author), Kevin Foley (narrator)

Books in Motion, ISBN 9781605481531, December 2008

After the death of his wife Valerie, Navy Commander Joshua Thornton has retired from the Navy and moved back to his childhood hometown of Chester, West Virginia to be a single parent to his five children. He has moved his family back into the old family home he grew up in, raised by his grandparents after the deaths of his own parents in a car accident. A JAG officer with a stellar record, Joshua expects to set up a quiet country law practice.

On the first day in their new home, his kids find a letter mailed to Joshua's mother, coincidentally, on the very day that she and his father died. It's from a friend who had been with them when they discovered a dead body in a barn, that then disappeared before they got the sheriff out there to see it. The friend, Lulu, was conveying the exciting information that at Rev. Rawlings' home, she'd seen a picture of the Rev. and Sheriff Delaney with the dead man.

Lulu also died that day, apparently of a heroin overdose.

But that's old news, right? No bearing on events today, surely.

What's current news is a strange young woman being interviewed on tv, claiming that Rev. Rawlings is the valley's drug lord. What's current news is the Reverend's granddaughter Vicki is stalking Joshua's cousin, Doctor Tad McMillan. Also current news is that Joshua's old girl friend Beth, now a pharmacist working in a drugstore owned by another old friend, Jan Martin, has been illicitly selling drugs to Vicki, who is a known drug dealer.

And suddenly, Joshua finds himself appointed the special prosecutor to investigate the murders of Vicki Rawlings and Beth Davis, and the allegations that Rev. Rawlings is the local drug lord.

The long-lost disappearing body, of course, is highly relevant.

This is a good mystery but in some ways a frustrating book. Every single one of the adult women in it seems fragile or damaged or just plain nuts. It's tiresome. If I hadn't already read Dead on Ice, it might be black mark bad enough to put me off any more--but I have read it, and I know that Carr's female characters get a lot stronger and more interesting--exceptionally so, in fact, though expanding on that would be a spoiler for later books in the series.

Mildly entertaining in itself, but strongly recommended as the start to a strong series.

I borrowed this book from the library.