Monday, July 11, 2005

A SMALL CASE OF MURDER by Lauren Carr (iUniverse)

I am not necessarily the most prolific mystery reader in the world. But when I come across a good one, I instantly feel the need to share. You know the type: can't put it down, everyone seems like a suspect, the clock becomes irrelevant.

That said, so fortunate was I to stumble across Lauren Carr's A SMALL CASE OF MURDER. Okay, I didn't stumble across it--it was given to me. But I'm still claiming it as a find.

Here we have the story of a JAG (yeah, just like the TV show you can't wait to finish so the Law & Order reruns will come on) by the name of Joshua Thornton who moves to Chester, West Virginia to raise his stable (five kids!) after his wife dies. Chester is the town of Joshua's youth, and returning "home" is an effort in trying to bring some peace and quiet to his life.

But this is a mystery. So Joshua is sadly mistaken.

There he finds a letter (a mystery letter!) that flips Chester on its head, tying the local minister to drugs and a pair of murders (that occurred in different countries) that occurred some 30 years earlier. Of course, puzzles this old are almost impossible to put together; so many pieces have been lost. But the tale is woven wonderfully, becomes increasingly gripping as the story unfolds and is simple and fun to read.

To step out of my role as reviewer for a moment, I must add a caveat: the weakest point of the book is the beginning. As the novel becomes more intense, the writing seemed to improve as well. Don't let the first few chapters throw you off. You'll be thanking me by the time you turn the last page.

Perhaps the funniest (and, I'm assuming, coincidental) thing about the book is that, though printed via iUniverse, the very first word of the novel is Lulu.

It's not too late to grab this for a beach read. Just bring plenty of sun block; the time will pass quickly.