Wednesday, April 29, 2020

The New Year's Eve Murder (a bit spoilerish

The New Year's Eve Murder (1997) by Lee Harris is the ninth book in the Christine Bennet series. I'm steadily making my way through the books that I haven't yet reviewed on the blog and/or used for challenges previously. New Year's Eve finds Chris, her husband Jack, and new baby invited to a party and overnight stay at the home of their friends, Arnold & Harriet Gold. While there, Arnold receives a distressed phone call from another friend--Ada Stark. Ada's daughter Susan is missing. Susan's boyfriend, Kevin, dropped her off in front of her parents' house the afternoon before New Year's Eve. She planned to spend the night and then go to a New Year's Eve party with him. But it appears that she never got into the house. No one has seen her since she got out of Kevin's car and he drove away. 

Of course, since Susan is of age, the police don't go full-throttle looking for her. Adults can change their minds about what they want to do and where they want to be. But Chris talks with the boyfriend and the mother and she realizes that this isn't a case of an adult woman deciding to run away from her obligations. Something must have happened after Susan got out  of the car, but what could have happened on a public street in broad daylight? Once she starts digging, she finds that things aren't quite what they seem. It appears that Susan did go off on her own and apparently paid a farmer a month's rent on an abandoned farmhouse. When Chris follows that lead, she finds what she dreaded she might....a dead body. But even that isn't what it seems.

Spoilers ahead--- read at your own risk

This mystery veers a little from the usual line for our former nun. Normally, Chris is looking into murders and mysteries from the past (some more historical than others, but never "just yesterday). Having her come across a fresh corpse is something new and a question of identity gives it even more of a spin. 

The first time I read this (closer to the published date), I noted that this wasn't my favorite of the series but didn't explain why. This time I can say that while the twists were interesting and so was the investigation, the ending falls a little flat with the introduction of a surprise suspect. There really isn't any way for the reader to figure out how this particular person might have a motive. It isn't until the very end when Chris starts connecting dots (that were invisible up till that moment) that you can see how s/he might be involved. Other than that, this is another good entry into the series and still well worth the time. ★★ 

Deaths = one beaten with a shovel
Calendar of Crime = December (New Year's Eve)
Mystery Reporter = How (mistaken identity)

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