Here's a great opportunity to check off the third item on the list, with this month's release of BY BOOK OR BY CROOK, a "first in series" by Eva Gates, set in a lighthouse on Bodie Island in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
And it's a lively and well-plotted mystery, with an armful of Jane Austen first editions, a very intelligent lighthouse cat, and for Lucy Richardson, a 360-view living space in the lighthouse tower, lit at night by pulses of the still-functional ship-warning lamp above her. Even better, Lucy herself is a librarian, eager for a break from her earlier job in the midst of family ties at Harvard. You can almost feel the glow of that southern coastal sunshine (and later, the storms!) as Lucy adapts to being assistant librarian in a charming local library housed in the historic island lighthouse she used to visit as a kid.
But after a moment of pure delight in opening the original Jane Austen books, Lucy's plunged into the conflicts of small-town library board life -- and the party staged to welcome the books for the summer (as well as to introduce Lucy to the community) turns into a murder scene. The victim? The very unpleasant library board chairman, of course: Jonathan Uppiton.
Lucy's boss Bertie, who'd brought the Austen book exhibit and Lucy to the library, takes the murder hard -- and like Lucy, Bertie is a suspect as far as the police are concerned, since she'd had a public argument with the victim:
Her face was pale, the bags under her eyes dark, the lines around her mouth deep. She tried to force a smile. She failed. "Isn't this a mess? What would Miss Austen think?"In addition to skillful pacing, the warmth of sympathetic characters, and the complication of a pair of simultaneous suitors (one of them a police officer!), BY BOOK OR BY CROOK launches Lucy's amateur sleuthing career. It's clear the "Lighthouse Library Mystery" series is going to be lots of fun, and I'm looking forward to many an afternoon of escaping into future Lucy Richardson adventures thanks to Eva Gates.
[Lucy replied] "Can I get you something? Coffee? Water?"
"No, but thanks, anyway. I didn't kill Jonathan."
"I know that. ... Do you have any idea who would have wanted him dead?"
Bertie lifted her thick, hand-knitted shawl off the coat stand in the corner. She wrapped it tightly around herself, as if seeking warmth. "You were there [at the party], Lucy. Tell me: who didn't want to kill him?"
Speaking of Eva Gates -- one reason BY BOOK OR BY CROOK is such a charmer is that Gates is actually a pen name for accomplished Canadian mystery author Vicki Delany. The book is a paperback release from Penguin Obsidian, and that means extra good news: With Delany's writing taking a new locale, "down here" in the United States, her books, whether written as Eva Gates or Vicki Delany, are likely to show up in more bookstores and on more library shelves nearby.