Thursday, July 16, 2009
Murder in Miniature by Margaret Grace
In the publishing climate in which authors must continue to build an audience or they're dropped, many cozy mystery writers use pseudonyms to write multiple series. Alice Kimberly is actually Clea Coyle. Sheila Connolly writes under her own name and Sarah Atwell. Tim Myers, who will debut his new book, A Slice of Murder at the Velma Teague Library at the end of the month, wrote that book under Chris Cavender. But, he also uses Tim Myers, Melissa Glazer and Elizabeth Bright. And, Camille Minichino, who wrote a series I liked about retired physicist, Gloria Lamerino, is now writing a miniature mystery series under Margaret Grace.
Grace's first book, Murder in Miniature, does have a great deal in common with the Gloria Lamerino stories. Both series feature mature characters, women in their fifties. And, the women both find themselves alone, having to make a life. Geraldine Porter, in Murder in Miniature, was an English teacher, but retired to take care of her husband as he died of cancer. Two years later, it appears that she's moved on, continuing to volunteer, agreeing to be Dollhouse Committee Chair at the Lincoln Point, CA Dollhouse and Miniatures Fair. And, she's always willing to help a friend, but her demanding friend, Linda, takes advantage of her.
First, Linda deserts her table at the fair, leaving Gerry to man both tables, while trying to tend to her other duties. Then, even though Gerry has a visiting granddaughter, Linda calls her for a ride in the middle of the night. Gerry packs up Maddie, and the two drive to a deserted gas station. Linda refuses to answer questions as to why she was there, but, when it's reported a woman was murdered there that night, Gerry and Maddie both knew they were at the murder site. Maddie is eager to report all of her knowledge to Gerry's nephew, Skip, a police officer, but Gerry isn't quite as excited about turning on her friend. Since Linda's son is a suspect in a jewelry store robbery, she has enough problems. And, it doesn't help when Maddie and Gerry visit that same jewelry store shortly before another incident at the store.
Have you ever been disappointed in a character? Gerry Porter almost lost my empathy, and Maddie's admiration, but she pulled through. When she agreed to keep a secret from Skip, I almost threw the book down. But, I held on a little longer until she admitted, "I had to get my priorities straight. Loyalty to Linda and Jason should not take precedence over other obligations. Skip deserved to be working with the entire truth, as I knew it." Fortunately, Skip and Gerry worked out the problems, and Skip handled the situation with a great deal of love.
Margaret Grace's debut mystery in this series has the best elements of her other series. There's a close-knit family group, supportive of Gerry Porter. Gerry's relationships with her sister-in-law, her nephew, and her granddaughter are wonderful to watch. It's a pleasure to read about a mature amateur sleuth. Murder in Miniature is an enjoyable addition to the current crop of craft mysteries.
Margaret Grace's website is www.dollhousemysteries.com
Murder in Miniature by Margaret Grace. Berkley Prime Crime, ©2008. ISBN 9780425219805 (paperback), 256p.