Review: For Fire Chief Colleen McCabe, the Fourth of July is both a day to celebrate and a day to be wary, especially since it's been so dry on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. But though the fireworks show goes off without incident, Colleen notices smoke in the distance, a situation she immediately recognizes as a house on fire. She and her team arrive quickly to put out the blaze, but not fast enough to save the owner of the residence, Myrtle Crepe, whose charred body they find on the kitchen floor, in Foal Play, the first mystery in this series by Kathryn O'Sullivan and the winner of the 2012 Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition.
Myrtle was not the best-liked woman in town. Indeed, the list of people, who might have wanted her dead, is too long to imagine. Still, Myrtle, a former school teacher and present head of the Lighthouse Wild Horse Preservation Society, was on balance a positive force for the community and Colleen was going to miss her. But not for very long. Imagine Colleen's surprise when someone pounds on her door hours later and there stands Myrtle Crepe, a bit the worse for wear, but most definitely alive. Myrtle is convinced that someone tried to kill her and Colleen is inclined to agree. But they differ on what to do next. Colleen now has an unidentified dead woman to contend with while Myrtle insists that she stay "dead" in order to flush out the killer.
From a mystery plot perspective, Foal Play adopts a relatively simplistic, by-the-numbers approach. To be sure, the mystery of … (a) the identify of the woman that was found dead in Myrtle's kitchen; and (b) who started the fire that consumed Myrtle's house; and (c) the all-but-forgotten dead man found on the beach, who was mentioned in a preface to the book, who may or may not be related to either (a) or (b) … is really rather unimportant to the story. Instead, this is all about characters … and very entertaining characters at that. Consider this chapter opening sentence, typical of the tone of the book, when Myrtle unexpectedly leaves the safety of Colleen's house: "Where does a sixty-five-year-old woman disguised as a man with a dog fur mustache, wearing a straw fedora and Hawaiian shirt, go to eat breakfast with her unsuspecting best friend?" That Myrtle gets away with pretending to be someone else all the while the town mourns for her is not realistic in the least, but does make for some humorous scenes. What this mystery lacks in substance is more than made up for in entertainment.
Acknowledgment: Minotaur Books provided a copy of Foal Play for this review.
Review Copyright © 2013 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Foal Play: Outer Banks, North Carolina
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Foal Play by Kathryn O'Sullivan — A Colleen McCabe Mystery
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: May 2013
List Price: $24.99
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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