Sunday, September 14, 2014

Not a Chance in Helen: A River Road Mystery #3

Author:  Susan McBride
Genre:  Mystery

Five Stars
In the third  River Road Mystery from USA Today bestselling author Susan McBride, Helen Evans knows her friend is not guilty of murder … she just has to prove it!

When 80-year-old Eleanora Duncan is found dead on her kitchen floor, Sheriff Frank Biddle suspects it isn't from natural causes. Eleanora wasn't exactly your average senior citizen. She was a widow worth millions, although all her money couldn't buy her happiness—not after losing both her husband and son.

Eleanora's bitterness alienated those around her, but did that bitterness make her the victim of foul play? Soon Jean Duncan, Eleanora's daughter-in-law, becomes the prime suspect. But the sheriff gets more than he bargained for when Helen Evans comes to the aid of her friend.

Helen knows that Jean didn't murder Eleanora, despite the very bad blood between them. So she uses every means at her disposal in order to clear Jean's name and track down Eleanora's killer.


Helen Evans is out taking a walk when she sees her elderly neighbor, Eleanora Duncan, nearly hit by car.  It is only narrowly avoided when Helen grabs Eleanora and pulls her out of harms' way.  Eleanora, overcome with emotion, confesses to Helen that someone is trying to kill her.

Eleanora is a wealthy widow who lives with her housekeeper Zelma.  Her husband died a few years ago, and her only child, a son, died when his wife lost control of their car.  Eleanora still blames his widow Jean for the death and refuses to have anything to do with her.  After the near-miss with the car, Helen visits Jean and tells her what happened.  Jean is trying to start a catering company, and has been hard at work cooking all morning.  After hearing what Eleanora told Helen, Jean decides to visit and perhaps reconnect with her, bringing along some of the food she has been preparing as a peace offering.  However, when she arrives she finds that nothing has changed; Eleanora refuses to have anything to do with her, so she leaves the food in the care of Zelma and vows to tell Helen she will never have anything to do with Eleanora again.

When Eleanora dies soon afterward, it is discovered that she has been a victim of food poisoning, and Jean is suspected of the crime.  There isn't a dearth of suspects, however:  It seems Eleanora had several visits the day she died:  Jemima Winthrop, who has been accusing Eleanora and her husband for years of stealing everything her family ever owned; Eleanora's brother-in-law Stanley, who was taken care of for years by her husband and expects to inherit everything; and a crazy Save-the-River crusader, who wanted Eleanora to contribute money to his cause.  Any one of these people could have poisoned the food, but in his typical fashion, Sheriff Biddle focuses on the closest target and tries to take the easy way out - this time on Jean.  Helen knows Jean is innocent, and it is up to her to find the real killer before Jean loses every chance at making a new life for herself after her husband's death.

The verdict:  I loved this book.  In my opinion, it was better than the first two in the series.  I still think that the sheriff needs to get a clue, but the plot flowed smoothly, the characters were interesting, and Helen was her usual feisty self, willing to do almost anything for her friends.  Even though she is a tad bit of a busybody, it's never because of gossip, but because she wants to do the right thing and make sure the wrong person isn't convicted of a crime they didn't commit.  Highly recommended.



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