Live Free or Die
Review: Acting fire chief Gwen Fifield is pressured into linking the death of a local museum owner with a series of small, though non-fatal, fires plaguing her small New Hampshire town, in Live Free or Die, the first mystery in this series by Jessie Crockett.
When local historian Beulah Price's body found among the smoldering ruins of her museum, local residents — and some officials — are quick to blame "people from away", like those from Massachusetts or Brazil. But Gwen isn't sure. The rash of petty fires that have been occurring over the past couple of months haven't been serious — an abandoned chicken coop, a stack of green lumber at the sawmill, the porch on an empty house — and no one has been hurt, seriously or otherwise, by them. Gwen can't help but consider a pattern forming, that maybe someone got careless and didn't realize Beulah was in the museum at the time. After all, she was 91 years old and had mobility problems. When the police chief suggests she returned to the museum to retrieve a forgotten sweater, Gwen tells him, "[S]he wouldn't have to run out for a sweater. It would have been faster for her to knit a new one." Given the state of Beulah's body, it isn't clear whether her death was an accident or murder, yet Gwen senses a cover-up may be involved, though how or why remains a mystery.
There's an interesting mix of Americana, collectibles, and history in the storyline of Live Free or Die and the murder mystery itself is nicely plotted. The red herrings are appropriate, well integrated, and contextually deceptive. But many of the characters are not distinctively drawn, seeming at times to blend into one another — the primary exceptions being Gwen herself and the DeSilva family. The small town aspect to the story tends to make this plausible — everyone has known everyone else their entire lives, their familiarity with each other spilling over into the narrative — but it would have helped add depth to the overall book had their personalities been better defined.
Acknowledgment: Jessie Crockett provided a copy of Live Free or Die for this review.
Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Live Free or Die: New Hampshire
— ♦ —
Live Free or Die by Jessie Crockett — A Gwen Fifield Mystery
Publisher: Mainly Murder Press
Format: Trade Paperback
Publication Date: August 2010
List Price: $15.95
— ♦ —
Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
Mysterious Reviews is a Division of
The Hidden Staircase Mystery Books
and a Business Unit of the
Omnimystery Family of Mystery Websites