Turkey Trot Murder by Leslie Meier (Mystery Novel, October 2017).
The lead character in this cozy mystery series, Lucy Stone, is a middle aged, happily married woman who works as a reporter for the local weekly newspaper in her small New England town. This time, she’s out for a run, training for the local Thanksgiving Day charity run when she stumbles onto the scene of what seems a tragic accident or maybe a drug-related suicide–but is it?
Readers already know (from the Prologue) what Lucy doesn’t: It was murder. Someone Allison clearly knew lured the rich but somewhat troubled young woman out on an isolated lake’s too-thin ice, causing her to fall in and freeze to death.
It’s the beginning of a multi-layered tale that includes more murderous activity, various red herrings and doses of topical, anti-immigrant (and anti-hispanic) bigotry that makes this a darker than usual ‘cozy’ type book. In this sort of book, the small town setting (and the people there) are typically depicted as charming, often offbeat or eccentric, but mostly lovable ‘salt of the earth’ types–one or two violent deaths notwithstanding.
Judging from the promotional back-cover blurbs, it seems most of Lucy Stone’s adventures maintain this tradition. But the ugly prejudices displayed in this book (though certainly not by her or other apparent regulars in the series) give this one a somber (and more sadly realistic) tone.
There’s nothing wrong with that, in itself. And the novel is effective, though our nominal heroine doesn’t really do much amateur detecting–but tends to stumble onto the truth. Lucy does show bravery when the time comes, though. Overall, it’s a very decent crime story–if, as I indicate, it’s a bit harder edged than the ‘standard issue’ cozy.
The only real problem I have with the book is something Meier (like most writers) has no control over. I refer to the playfully cartoonish cover art Kensington Books has saddled the title with. Yes, it looks like the novel is another lighthearted cozy–when it’s quite a different animal. It comes close to being false advertising, in my opinion and may lead to the dismay of unsuspecting readers.