Birthday Party Murder (2002) by Leslie Meier
Miss Julia Ward Howe Tilley is about to turn ninety and the town of Tinker's Cover is gearing up for a big bash for the beloved former librarian. There will be cake and a "This Is your Life"-style presentation. The the marching band will perform and the local television station is planning to air a spotlight segment. And...there will be murder.
On the morning that Lucy Stone and the girls decide to organize Miss Tilley's birthday celebration, Lucy is also asked to look into the death of Sherman Cobb, the town's primary (and oldest) lawyer. Cobb had just received word from his doctor that he has pancreatic cancer and the death has the earmarks of suicide--an old man taking the easy way out before the deadly disease gets too bad. But Cobb's partner in the law practice has severe doubts and wants Lucy to use her investigative reporting skills to poke around. But who would want to kill Cobb? Everybody loved the older man and he never got involved in any bitter court cases. Amongst Cobb's papers, Lucy finds a connection between Miss Tilley...and the mysterious niece and great-nephew who have just appeared in Miss Tilley's life. It looks like the present death...and danger to the town's beloved librarian has its roots in the past. Can Lucy dig up the correct roots in time?
A fairly run-of-the-mill cozy mystery. Lucy, as cozy amateur detectives do, manages to get in a tight spot--even to the point of getting shot--in the denouement. But, of course since it's a cozy, she's not hurt much at all and seems pretty back to normal by Miss Tilley's birthday party. I would have appreciated more detecting on Lucy's part and less worrying about how she's aging and those extra pound she's gained. But, miracle of miracles, those few morning work-out video viewings have worked magic and she's trimmed down and able to fit in those pants that were too tight at the beginning of the book--and that cream she's been smearing into her face must be miracle cream as well, because the wrinkles are smoothed out too.
The villain of the piece was a nice little cardboard cutout, out for revenge. No real character build to make the revenge motif seem plausible, just enough to provide motive so when the police cart them off at the end we can be glad to see the back of them. And we can be pleased that it wasn't any of the characters we like. ★★ and 1/2.
First line: Sherman Cobb wasn't feeling well.
Last line: "No way," she said. "I've just begun to fight."
Deaths = two shot