Release Date: Dec 18, 2018
Series: A Valentine’s Day Mystery
This book includes two older stories in the Lucy Stone series combined into one volume. Each book takes place around Valentine’s Day. The first book is Valentine Murder which was first published almost twenty years ago. Lucy Stone is a busy mom and writer for the local newspaper in Tinker’s Cove, Maine. She has recently taken on another commitment, serving on the board of directors for the library. At her first board meeting, Lucy goes to the lower level of the library searching for the new librarian, Bitsy Howell, who is late for a children’s storytime activity. Lucy is horrified when she discovers Bitsy’s dead body. The lead investigator on the case suspects one of the library board members, so against his orders, Lucy starts questioning suspects on her own to find the murderer.
I have read a few of the newer books in this series and enjoyed them more than this story. The story feels very dated between Lucy struggling with using the Internet and the town attitudes towards some of their residents, including a same-sex couple. The story doesn’t put Lucy in the best light, as she leaves her young daughter alone in the car a few times and ignores deadlines for her reporting job to do her detecting.
In spite of these flaws, the central mystery in the book is entertaining. Lucy liked Bitsy and can’t imagine anyone wanting to harm her. The more she talks to both board members and patrons of the library, she learns that Bitsy wasn’t always as nice as she appeared and there are actually several people who may have wanted to see Bitsy dead. Lucy’s questions put several many Tinker’s Cove residents on the defensive and ends up putting herself and youngest daughter in danger. Lucy is determined to get to the truth and the investigation concludes with a dramatic ending. Fans of the series who haven’t read the earlier books will like reading one of Lucy’s first cases.
The second story in this book is Chocolate Covered Murder, first published in 2012. Several years have passed since the first story in this volume. Lucy’s preschooler is now in eighth grade, her son is married and has a young child of his own. Lucy still writes for the local newspaper and is preparing for her next story. Before she can interview Trey Meacham and his store manager, Tamzin Graves, from Chanticleer’s Chocolates, tragedy strikes Tinker’s Cove. Max Fraser falls through the ice while drinking and ice fishing, and Lucy is on the scene when the body is discovered. The police are ruling it an accident but a grotesque detail of the crime has Lucy thinking it’s foul play. When another bizarre death occurs soon afterwards, Lucy launches her own investigation to find a killer.
I like seeing the changes in Lucy’s life, but the plot in this story isn’t as enjoyable as that of the first story. The reader isn’t given a chance to get to know the first victim and the second victim is a one-dimensional, stereotypical femme fatale who not surprisingly made many enemies throughout the town. In addition, Lucy spends way too much of the book worrying about her weight and a couple men in the town make comments about overweight women in the town and not blaming husbands for being attracted to the new woman in town who considers any man available, whether he married or not.
I was surprised to see that some of the story’s content is a bit much for a typical cozy. Reading about high school girls giggling about “naughty chocolates” being sold at the candy shop where they’re working, and a woman being left handcuffed naked to her bed against her will and the cops shrugging it off as consensual didn’t appeal to me. The part of the story dealing with opioid and heroin use is unfortunately still very relevant and Lucy’s distress over increased drug use in her town is realistic and understandable. More focus on this aspect of the book and less over Lucy’s weight and on a side plot about an older couple in town who may not be all that they seem would have made this a more meaningful book. As always, Lucy won’t give up until she solves the crimes and earns some grudging respect from the police officer leading the official investigation.
I have read other books in this series that I really enjoyed. The two stories have their positives and will appeal to some readers looking for quick reads with a Valentine’s Day theme, but aren’t the best in this series.