Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Murder at Barclay Meadow

Author:  Wendy Sand Eckel
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; ebook
ISBN #:  9781250058607
Minotaur Books
320 Pages
$13.48 Amazon; $12.99 ebook
July 28, 2015

Five Stars

Rosalie Hart's world has been upended.  After her husband confesses to an affair, she exiles herself to her late aunt's farmhouse on Maryland's Eastern Shore.  With its fields untended and the house itself in disrepair, Barclay Meadow couldn't be more different than the tidy D.C. suburb she used to call home.  Just when Rosalie feels convinced things couldn't get any worse, she finds a body floating in her marsh grasses.  When the sheriff declares the death an accident, she becomes suspicious.  The dead girl, Megan, reminds her of her own daughter, who has recently gone off to college, and she feels a responsibility to find out the truth.

Rosalie confides her doubts to her friends in her creative writing class, and they ask to join her investigation, beginning in earnest.  Meanwhile, Rosalie works on restoring Barclay Meadow to its former glory - with the help from the rugged Tyler Wells, a farmer who once leased the land.  When Rosalie discovers her aunt's favorite bread recipe on a yellowed index card, she begins baking, and with her deep love for nourishing others rekindled, she starts to feel alive again.  But as she zeroes in on the truth about what happened to Megan, she begins getting ominous threats.  Determined to get justice for Megan and protect the new home she's begun to build for herself, Rosalie races to catch the killer in this deftly plotted and heartwarming debut.             


Rosalie Hart has just discovered her husband Ed is having an affair, and told her he's in love with the woman, so Rosalie moved out and headed off to the Maryland Shore for Barclay Meadow, the farm her Aunt Charlotte left to her in her will.

But all is not well.  She steps outside her house one afternoon and notices something in the nearby water - that something appears to be a dead body.  She calls the sheriff and after a few questions and the removal of the body, it is ruled a suicide.  But Rosalie knows it was something else - why would the girl kill herself in a nice dress and wearing a backpack?  When she suggests the same to the sheriff, he becomes belligerent - no, angry - with her and tells her to leave it alone and get on with her life.  She soon learns the girl's name was Megan, a student at the local college.

But Rosalie thinks she owes it to the girl to find out who killed her, the reason being she has a daughter, Annie, about the same age as Megan, and can't leave it alone.  So she attends Megan's funeral, and after talking with one of the attendees, Rhonda, her suspicions are growing.

So Rosalie joins a creative writing class but can't think of anything to write.  She makes friends with three of the students - Sue Ling, Tony Ricci, and Glenn, who find out her dilemma and think that they should investigate the drowning and prove it was murder.  

But how to go about it?  They can't let anyone know what they are doing, because the sheriff has taken an unreasonable dislike to Rosalie and threatens her every chance he gets, so she vows to stay out of his way.  Yet they make a list of suspects and try to figure out ways to decide which one of them committed the murder, knowing that because of where Megan was found, the killer must be close by.  And Rosalie knows that if someone killed once and gets away with it, there is a possibility they will kill again.

She also finds out that her husband Ed has frozen all her accounts and she has to figure out a way to stay on the farm without an income.  But there is a guardian angel - sort of.  A hunky farmer/handyman named Tyler shows up at her door and tells her he has farmed the land for years for Charlotte and will do the same for her - all she needs to do is accept the check he gives her and he gets to keep all the profits from the crops.  As a temporary fix, it will work, but Rosalie needs to find a way to make more money.

To add to her problems, her daughter Annie wants her to get back with Ed, never mind the fact that he has moved his new love Rebecca into her home and obviously isn't interested in a reunion, and Rosalie doesn't know what to do help her.  And Tyler is very secretive about his life, showing up ever day to work and helping himself to coffee in her kitchen throughout the day - but keeping mum about his private life and past.

But again back to the murder - Rosalie and her friends have split up duties - Sue is using the internet (including Facebook - like it or not, it's a big part of today's culture) to find answers, Glenn is keeping close to Lila, who works for the sheriff, and Tony is helping Rosalie do "recon" work when needed.  But the closer she gets to the truth, the more threatening the sheriff gets to her, which only fuels her belief that Megan was murdered, and there seems to be a cover up, and Sheriff Wilgus might be a part of it.

This is the first mystery from Ms. Eckel, and she has a welcome voice in the mystery writing community.  The writing is crisp, the plot tight.  Even though there are actually many subplots occurring within the solving of Megan's murder, Ms. Eckel manages to make it all work and keep it interesting throughout the book.  Everything flowed; everything was believable.  There were no outlandish situations (I never once had to say to myself, 'yeah, that would happen in real life,') and that is a huge plus in this novel.  It also takes place over several months - the mystery isn't solved in a week or two.  It's not your typical cozy; the characters are three-dimensional and you can immerse yourself in their lives as you read.  The ending completely satisfying, and I enjoyed spending time with Rosalie and the people who surround her.  Mystery lovers should enjoy this book.  Highly recommended.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Dance of the Scarecrows (A Jonathan Wilder Mystery #1)

Author:  Ray Sipherd Genre:   Mystery Hardcover; Paperback; ISBN #:  9780312143060; 9780373262878 Worldwide Mystery 252 Pages Various...