A Crafty Killing
Berkley, Feb 1 2011, $7.99
The town of McKinlay Mill has not had a murder in over four decades. What it does have is Artisans Alley in which artists rent space to show their works. Ezra Hilton owns the majority of stock with Chad Bonner possessing the remaining ten percent. When Chad died in a car accident, his shares went to his widow Katie who wants nothing to do with the place that siphoned away her savings.
Six months later when Katie visits Artisan’s Alley she finds Ezra at the bottom of the staircase. The police inform her he was murdered and since she inherited half his shares and his nephew Gerald the remainder, Katie is the majority stockholder. Katie quits her job to manage Artisan Alley hoping to get out of debt so she can sell the place at a profit. A few days later, Peter Ashby, an artist who sells life sized copies of resin statuary Victorian cemetery art is found murdered. The police look at Katie as the prime suspect in both homicides, which spurs her to investigate to clear her name.
This opening tale in a small-town amateur sleuth series is a terrific first act. McKinlay Mill is a place where neighbors know each other on a first name basis so that a homicide in the relatively crime free town becomes personalized by all the residents. The cast especially the artisans enhance Katie’s investigation with their eccentricities. However, this is Katie’s story line as she is the complete protagonist. Katie takes a risk on running something that not too long ago she loathed, but has problems with vendors, bankers, and a killer while the building needs desperate renovation and guilt lingers for just before Chad died she had left him.