Title: Back to School Murder
Author: Leslie Meier
Publisher: Kensington Mystery
Copyright Date: 1997
Print Date: September 1998
Series: 4th in the Lucy Stone mystery series
Book Description (from back cover):
Comments:TINKER COVE'S OWN AMATEUR SLEUTH LUCY STONE DISCOVERS THAT SCHOOL DAYS CAN BE MURDER.
It's back to school time in the peaceful Maine town of Tinker's Cover, and for mother-of-four Lucy Stone it isn't a moment too soon. But trouble at the local elementary school soon has the sometime crime-solver juggling family, job, and night classes with another mystery to solve. And it starts with a bank.
A bomb goes off with the noon launch bell, but not before all the kids are safely evacuated, and Carol Crane, the new assistant principal, is hailed as a hero. But days later, Carol is found murdered and everyone is stunned when the most popular teacher at the school is arrested for the crime. However, not everyone is buying the open-and-shut case, including Lucy Stone, who senses there's more to things than meets the eye.
It soon becomes clear that Lucy is flirting with danger, as sizzling secrets and explosive surprises provide a primer for the most diabolical of motives. Hot on the trail of a clever killer, the dedicated mom and seasoned sleuth must harness the coverage and cool aplomb to uncover a crime that just might give her an education in the fine art of murder.
I had several issues with this book. I wanted to like it, but I found myself irritated on a number of levels.
First, an editing mistake. The story makes some references to things that happened in a previous books. These references are followed by asterisks and at the bottom of the page, the name of the book being referred to. Or at least that's how it was supposed to work. The first of these references is to Trick or Treat Murder. But it says Tippy-Toe Murder. I think this bothered me so much because what's the point of having the distraction of these footnotes if they don't provide accurate information?
Second, an inconsistency in the series. Lucy's daughter has an asthma attack, Lucy rushes her to the doctor, the doctor asks about allergies, and Lucy says they got rid of their cat because they discovered Elizabeth is allergic. The thing is, they had 3 kittens in Tippy-Toe Murder. This is a small thing, but animal lover that I am... I would have been devastated if my own allergies or my sisters caused that loss (fortunately, none of us ever had pet allergies). I simply can't imagine forgetting that there were 3 cats, not one, that had to be given up. And my mother wouldn't forget that either.
Third, and most plot relevant... I REALLY wanted to knock some sense into Lucy. She was playing with fire, risking the happiness of her marriage and family. Adultery/cheating is a huge pet peeve of mine (in fiction and reality). Lucy doesn't actually commit adultery, but she comes too close. I lost quite a bit of respect for her character. And her intelligence. Cozy mysteries in general aren't all that believable, really, but they become even less believable when the amateur sleuth does something so stupid.
Fortunately, Lucy gets a reality check and improves. Enough for me to continue reading the series despite these irritations. I've already read the next three books following this one, and will presumably read more in the future. (I have a gap in my collection, so I need to get a hold of those missing.)