Sunday, May 17, 2020

The Good Friday Murder

The Good Friday Murder (1992) by Lee Harris (Syrell Leahy)

This is the debut novel in Harris's series featuring ex-nun Christiine Bennett. She has just recently left the convent and is settling into her new life as a homeowner and member of the community in Oakwood. Her cousin Gene lives at Greenwillow, a living facility for the mentally disabled, and, after the death of her aunt, she is now Gene's custodial relative. The director of Greenwillow makes an appeal to Christine for help. The facility has the opportunity to move to Oakwood, but various members of the community oppose their application for a variance on the intended building. 

Robert Talley, a recent addition to the residents, is one of two savant twins who were implicated (but never tried and convicted) of the death of their mother in 1950. The citizens of Oakwood don't want a possible killer moving into town and Mrs. McAlpin would like Christine to add her voice to those who speak on behalf of Greenwillow at the next meeting. Christine is happy to do so, but when the meeting is over, she finds herself committed to investigating the 40-year old murder. The committee has agreed that if she can discover that Robert and his brother James were not responsible for their mother's death, then they will allow the building permit to go forward.

She's never investigated anything before, but her curiosity and research skills (gained while earning a master's degree) stand her in good stead. Digging through old newspaper reports, she finds that she needs to see the police file. This leads her to Sergeant Jack Brooks who will make quite a difference--in more ways than one. Using information he's able to give her from the file and following up various threads, she becomes convinced that someone else was in the house on April 7th, 1950. Someone was...and that someone is willing to kill again if need be.

It's been a long time since I read the very first of the Chris Bennett novels--but digging through my bins of books, I was tempted to read it again. This is a good introduction to Chris's world and her involvement in old murders. Her interest in the particular case is quite logical as she has a vested interest in helping Greenwillow move to Oakwood where Gene will be closer to his remaining relative. However, I had forgotten how horrible this particular murder was. Not only is the stabbing of Mrs. Talley fairly gruesome--the resulting effects on the twins are pretty disturbing as well. Certainly not your standard cozy mystery fare. Nonetheless, this has an absorbing plot--I finished it in one sitting and enjoyed it very much. ★★ and 1/2.


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Calendar of Crime: April (Primary Action)
Deaths = 3 (one strangled; one heart attack; one natural causes)

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