Thursday, July 7, 2016

Murder Under the Covered Bridge (A Bucket List Mystery #1), by Elizabeth Perona

Midnight Ink, ISBN 9789738748954, July 2016

The Summer Ridge Bridge Club ladies are working their way through their "Sixty Lists," each woman's list of sixty things she wants to do before she dies. Getting caught doing one of the early items earned them the sobriquet "The Skinny-Dipping Grandmas." They're now working on another item, a sexy pin-up calendar, and they, or at least most of them, do not want to get caught doing this one.

The last picture that needs to be taken is Francine's, in a horse-drawn carriage, at the Roseville Covered Bridge, recreating her great-grandmother's scandalous escapade with the family's carriage driver. Joy is living out her dream, as an on-air feature reporter for the local tv station and is doing a piece on the Roseville Bridge and its history. Along with filming her segment, she's going to take the pictures of Francine and her husband Jonathan.

And despite Francine's paranoia about getting caught taking the sexy pictures, everything is going just fine. At least, it is until her cousin William ambles by, walking onto the neighboring land owned by a touchy local hermit, and  gets shot at from two directions.

Neither of the shooters hit him, but in his rush to escape, William slips and falls into the creek, and hits his head. Soon Francine, Jonathan, Joy, and two other ladies of the bridge club, Charlotte and Alice, are answering questions for Detective Roy Stockton, and worrying about getting back into town in order to help the remaining club member, Mary Ruth, with her festival week bake shop.

Are these ladies a little busy? Yes. Yes, they are.

William turns out to be carrying Francine's grandmother's diary, with fascinating information about Great-Grandmother and her Scandalous Escapade. He was also carrying a tiny vial of what might or might not be water.

But why were two different people shooting at him? Why was he trespassing on the notoriously touchy Zed Matthew's land? And why the heck is William's wife Dolly acting so strangely?

Mary Ruth chases a chance to be on the Food Network; Francine tries to keep their pin-up calendar from becoming public; another member of the group is working to ensure it goes public.

And Francine is also trying to figure out who shot at William, what her family's connection to pre-FDA herbal remedy merchant "Doc Wheat" is, and why William and Dolly seem to have an inordinate interest in Zed Matthew's land.

I'll confess I had trouble warming up to these ladies, though in the end I became quite fond of Francine, and I never wholly resolved in my own my why they are friends. They seem to find each other enormously frustrating, as much as anything. Yet it's an interesting mystery with a fun resolution.

Recommended with reservations.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.