Sunday, March 31, 2019

Checking the Traps, by Joan Livingston

Crooked Cat Books, March 2019

Isabel Long, former local newspaper editor, now beginner P.I., is still recovering from her banged-up arm and ribs from her second case. She's still serving drinks at the Rooster Bar, though, and still interested when Gary Beaumont comes to her, asking her to look into his older brother's apparent suicide, six years ago. Gary has never believed it was suicide, but the authorities didn't take his doubts seriously. Apparently, small-time local drug dealers don't have a lot of pull with the police in small-town western Massachusetts.

What catches the interest of Isabel and her sidekick--her 93-year-old mother, Maria Ferreira--is that drug dealer Gary Beaumont's older half brother, Cary Moore, highway worker, not involved in Gary's business, was a poet.

She starts digging into his background and interests, and what had happened in the period leading up to his apparent leap from the bridge into the river in Titus. Much to her surprise, she finds both evidence that Cary might have been depressed enough to kill himself, but also that someone really did have a motive to kill him, and it relates to his poetry.

What really happened to Cary Moore? You will care, and need to know.

This is a good mystery with a great mix of characters, and local, small-town life in the western Massachusetts hill towns. I frankly get tired of everything being set in Tennessee, or Texas, or Minnesota, with the frequent accompaniment of chest-puffing over these places being Real America--especially the places that were going to war with the USA barely a century and a half ago, and often with explicit put-downs of New England or the northeast generally. Joan Livingston's characters don't find a need to put down any other part of the country while going about their daily lives and the solving of their local crises.

These are interesting characters, not all of them likable, but you do get to see their positive as well as negative traits. Not everyone is complicated, that's not real life any more than everyone being completely simple, but no one is one-dimensional. Isabel, her family, and their neighbors are definitely worth getting to know better.


I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

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