Merrimon Book Reviews

Pink Crocs

Dumpster Diving
Freeganism is an anti-consumerist lifestyle The lifestyle involves salvaging discarded, unspoiled food from supermarket dumpsters, known as dumpster diving. Freegans salvage the food for political reasons, rather than out of need.

From Merrimon Book Reviews
Bookplate Special
Bookplate Special by Lorna Barrett
by Lorna Barrett

An exciting development in the Booktown Mystery series

When college roommate Pammy Fredericks comes to visit Stoneham, New Hampshire, mystery bookstore owner Tricia Miles can't very well turn her down.  Pammy is the kind of person who just gets on the nerves.  After freeloading for weeks, Tricia has finally had enough.  Tricia kicks her out.  When Pammy is found dead in a trash bin, Tricia sets out to answer all the unanswered questions even when her investigation takes her into activities and secrets she never could have imagined.  From groups of freegans, dumpster divers with ecological politics to individuals with secrets to hide, Tricia investigates the underside of the nice cozy small town Booktown and its model citizens to ferret out the motivations that could lead someone to murder. 

The third of the Booktown mysteries,
Lorna Barrett's BOOKPLATE SPECIAL takes fans back to the wonderful town where books and book lovers populate the town.  Tricia Miles owner of I Haven't Got a Clue mystery bookshop and her cat Miss Marple seem to attract mysteries, unusual situations, and less than cozy crime scenes.  The visit of her college roommate is no exception, except that pursuit of the clues leads Tricia into previously unknown corners of the Stoneham community.  Whereas the first two books in the series (MURDER IS BINDING and BOOKMARKED FOR DEATH) give readers a glimpse into the town and the two sisters, BOOKPLATE SPECIAL adds a new richness to the series.   Although BOOKPLATE SPECIAL would work as a stand alone, series readers will particularly appreciate the author's ability to develop the series itself from book to book.  Characters and setting are both familiar and yet also one can't help but feel  one gets to know both more and more from book to book.  In BOOKPLATE SPECIAL, readers get even more of an insider's glimpse into Booktown.  Lorna Barrett adds new characters (such as Captain Grant Baker) and revisits other secondary characters fans of the series have grown to love through the first 2 books.  Each secondary character is not just a stock character.   Instead, relationships change.  The mystery itself has several unexpected yet prepared twists and turns to keep readers guessing. With the third book, Lorna Barrett quite simply reaches new heights in characters, setting, mystery plotting and narrative voice.

BOOKPLATE SPECIAL adds depth in the series as Lorna Barrett explores areas of the Stoneham society beneath the town's tourist charm.  Stoneham New Hampshire was a dying town until it remade itself, adding specialized bookstores to bring in the tourists.  Beneath that appearance, hard economic times hit other layers of the town's population.  While this might seem a detour from the typical cozy mystery, under the pen of Lorna Barrett, this vision adds a freshness to the series.   Lorna Barrett presents a balanced view, showing the plight of employees struggling to make ends meet, the pressures on the bookstore owners themselves, and a town attempting to help its citizens with the establishment of the Stoneham Food Shelf.   Indeed, the exploration of the financial dynamics give the series new depth, allowing readers to see beneath the nice veneer, while also making Booktown a somewhat idealized town one would want to visit simply because the residents, at least most of them with murderers excluded, of course, have a concern for each other and the welfare of their town. 
Tricia's sister Angelica adds humor to the mystery, especially as her book has been accepted for publication but also in other ways.  Above all, the contrast between Angelica, a chef and cookbook store owner dedicated to healthy preservative-free food, and her sister Tricia, a woman whose eating habits are not swayed by all the health food talk, provides a nice balance to the social issues of the book.  Tricia's practical attitude adds a sense of humor or check to Angelica's interests.  Just when the exploration of social issues might become preachy and annoying to readers of a more moderate political or social position, Lorna Barrett provides relief with human scenes between Tricia and her sister.  Tricia herself is perhaps the character to whom most mystery readers would relate, a woman curious and concerned about others but also a woman whose lifestyle and eating habits are not prescriptive.  Lorna Barrett hits the perfect balance.   Angelica's recipes included at the end add a richness, not only as recipes, but also for their specific selection.  Far from being exotic or what one would think of as "health food", Angelica's recipes come from cozy moments in the book, moments when Angelica prepares comfort food for those she loves.  Each recipe represents a moment of warmth or intimacy.   Mystery lovers can again count of references to both classic and bestseller mysteries.  BOOKPLATE SPECIAL is a wonderful cozy mystery for readers looking for a bit of quirkiness, a slight edginess, or just something more to their cozies.  Lorna Barrett just gets better and better!

Berkley Prime Crime (November 2009)
A Booktown Mystery
Author website
Other Booktown Mysteries: Murder is Binding, Bookmarked For Death

Reviewed by Merrimon, Merrimon Book Reviews
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