Live Free or Die, by Jessie Crockett *****

livefreeordieA good book leaves me in a great mood, and a lousy one makes me grumpy. Today was a good day, and so were the hours, carefully stretched out, over the last week or so, when I was reading this wonderful little e-book. It was not a bundle book, it was one I paid for, and it was worth buying and then some. I will admit that I have a soft spot for promising newbie writers whose careers have not yet taken off; on the other hand, I have never suffered fools gladly.

If you want to see my snarky reviews, go to Goodreads or amazon; I save this location for the favorable reviews, unless a publisher straight-up insists that I post my review of their ARC regardless of outcome, which does not happen that often.

A mystery reader needs to feel comfortable with the characters and buy the premise before anything else is believable. Although I live in a major urban center and generally prefer mysteries set in big cities, Ms. Crocker managed to make me right at home in a tiny New Hampshire village, though I have never been to New England. She did this by forging common bonds–the target audience here is the female boomer, and I related to it well for that reason–and also by making the characters real enough, through narrative, dialogue, and above all consistency, that I could visualize them. I also related well to the thread woven into the story that champions the rights of immigrants. Like Ms. Crockett, I am married to a man who comes from another country, has darker skin than Caucasians, and has an accent. When her ignorant but otherwise mostly likable villagers started assuming that anything that went wrong should be chalked up to “those people”, my dander went up exactly the way hers did.

This is not an adrenaline-rushing type of book, it is a cozy mystery. Not everyone in the story is a rocket scientist. At one point an out-of-town official asks her if she could imagine anyone stupid enough to kill someone as the victim is killed; she looks around at her hilariously drawn fellow citizens and says honestly, “Yes.”

It’s a crowded genre; nevertheless, I found myself chortling over the brand-new witticisms and turns of speech she brought into the story. Examples: “bacon fog”, a “clinically depressed” couch, and a very funny scene featuring a disaster on a lawn festooned with lit-up plastic Christmas statues. (My husband shifted restlessly as the bed quietly quaked under my suppressed laughter.)

How does someone who is not a cop solve mysteries, particularly those related to murder? Those who have noted in other books that most are solved by police of some ilk (i.e., also fire chiefs, coast guard, forest rangers) are absolutely right. Hers works, though probably not for a series. As a single novel, the setting of a very small town where many of the second-in-command jobs are parceled out to hard-working volunteers, having this postmistress, who is forced to hear everyone’s private business because she is a captive audience, worked really well. She is on the scene and volunteering in a hundred different ways because she has no personal life; her spouse is dead, her kids have flown.

She sets up a different premise by the story’s end that could conceivably offer her a back-door route to further adventures if she decides to go there and do that..

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