Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas Carol Murder by Leslie Meier

This is the 20th Lucy Stone book. I like this series but I felt I was getting preached at.  We all know how hard this economic downturn has been with people losing their jobs or having hours cut.  People losing houses due to either loss of a job or bad loans. Even the people in Tinker's Cove were affected. Along with that story line which Lucy wrote a story for the Pennysaver, we have Lucy in a town production of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, which also parallels people in the town.

I wonder if Meier is just running out of ideas. Obviously, this was not my favorite book in this series.

Summary from the author's site:
It’s Christmas in Tinker’s Cove, Maine, and Lucy Stone is excited about her acting debut in the town’s production of A Christmas Carol. But a real life Scrooge has everyone feeling frosty, and with a murderer on the loose, Lucy will have to unwrap her sleuthing skills faster than she can say, “Bah! Humbug!”
Lucy normally loves planning for the holidays, but this year, Tinker’s Cove has fallen on hard times. With so many residents struggling to make ends meet, Christmas festivities are a luxury some can’t afford. But the story’s not so bleak at Downeast Mortgage, whose tightfisted owners, Jake Marlowe and Ben Scribner, are raking in profits from everyone’s misfortune. Half the town is in their debt, so when the miserly Marlowe is murdered, the mourners are few and the suspects are many. . .
It’s hard to feel merry amidst all the yuletide chaos. Between her reporting duties at the Pennysaver and nightly rehearsals for the Christmas play, Lucy hardly has time to search for a killer–especially one whose victim left behind so many possible culprits. Scribner believes Marlowe’s ghost has come to warn him of his own impending demise, and when he starts receiving death threats, Lucy wonders if there’s more to the omen than the ravings of a bitter old pinchpenny. . .
Can Lucy solve the case and deck the halls before the killer strikes again? In a season of giving, receiving a deadly Christmas present is definitely not what Lucy had on her wish list this year. . .

Excerpt:

CHAPTER 1

When the first foreclosure sale of the Great Recession took place in Tinker's Cove, Maine, Pennysaver reporter Lucy Stone expected a scene right out of a silent movie. The auctioneer would be a slimy sort of fellow who ran his fingers along his waxed and curled mustache and cackled evilly, the banker would be a chubby chap whose pocket watch dangled from a thick gold chain stretched across his round stomach, and a burly sheriff would be forcibly evicting a noticeably hungry and poorly clad family from their home while his deputies tossed furniture and personal belongings onto the lawn.
The reality, which she discovered when she joined a small group of people gathered in front of a modest three-bedroom ranch, was somewhat different. For one thing, the house was vacant. The home owners had left weeks ago, according to a neighbor. "When Jim lost his job at the car dealership they realized they couldn't keep up the payments on Patty's income—she was a home health aide—so they packed up their stuff and left. Patty's mom has a B and B on Cape Cod, so she's going to help out there, and Jim's got himself enrolled in a nursing program at a community college."
"That sounds like a good plan," Lucy said, feeling rather disappointed as she'd hoped to write an emotion-packed human interest story.
"They're not getting off scot-free," the neighbor said, a young mother with a toddler on her hip. "They'll lose all the money they put in the house—bamboo floors, granite countertops, not to mention all the payments they made—and the foreclosure will be a blot on their credit rating for years...." Her voice trailed off as the auctioneer called for attention and began reading a lot of legalese.
While he spoke, Lucy studied the individuals in the small group, who she assumed were planning to bid on the property in hopes of snagging a bargain. One or two were even holding white envelopes, most likely containing certified checks for the ten thousand dollars down specified in the ad announcing the sale.
But when the auctioneer called for bids, Ben Scribner, a partner in Downeast Mortgage, which held the note, opened with $185,000, the principal amount. That was more than the bargain hunters were prepared to offer, and they began to leave. Seeing no further offers, the auctioneer declared the sale over and the property now owned by the mortgage company.
Ben, who had thick white hair and ruddy cheeks, was dressed in the casual outfit of khaki pants and button-down oxford shirt topped by a barn coat favored by businessmen in the coastal Maine town. He was a prominent citizen who spoke out at town meetings, generally against any measure that would raise taxes. His company, Downeast Mortgage, provided financing for much of the region and there were few people in town who hadn't done business with him and his partner, Jake Marlowe. Marlowe was well known as a cheapskate, living like a solitary razor clam in that ramshackle Victorian mansion, and he was a fixture on the town's Finance Committee where he kept an eagle eye on the town budget.
Since that October day three years ago, there had been many more foreclosures in Tinker's Cove as the economy ground to a standstill. People moved in with relatives, they rented, or they moved on. What they didn't do was launch any sort of protest, at least not until now.
The fax announcing a Black Friday demonstration had come into the Pennysaver from a group at Winchester College calling itself the Social Action Committee, or SAC, which claimed to represent "the ninety-nine percent." The group was calling for an immediate end to foreclosures and was planning a demonstration at the Downeast Mortgage office on the Friday after Thanksgiving, which Lucy had been assigned to cover.
When she arrived, a few minutes before the appointed time of nine a.m., there was no sign of any demonstration. But when the clock on the Community Church chimed the hour, a row of marchers suddenly issued from the municipal parking lot situated behind the stores that lined Main Street. They were mostly college students who for one reason or other hadn't gone home for the holiday, as well as a few older people, professors and local residents Lucy recognized. They were bundled up against the November chill in colorful ski jackets, and they were carrying signs and marching to the beat of a Bruce Springsteen song issuing from a boom box. The leader, wearing a camo jacket and waving a megaphone, was a twenty-something guy with a shaved head.
To read more, click here.
Pages: 262
Published: 2013

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