St. Patrick's Day Murder
Leslie Meier
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Buy *St. Patrick's Day Murder (Lucy Stone)* by Leslie Meier online

St. Patrick's Day Murder (Lucy Stone)
Leslie Meier
256 pages
January 2008
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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In her latest Lucy Stone outing, author Leslie Meier unleashes an old Irish curse into the midst of the chilly and wintry landscape of Tinker's Cove, Maine. The "quintessential New England sound," Tinker's Cove is once again the perfect backdrop for a tale of murder and mayhem where Lucy, our intreped Pennysaver reporter, finds herself facing her most terrifying and baffling case yet.

Beginning her day like any other, Lucy's interest is caught by a handful of people gathered outside the landmark pub, The Bilge. A dark, dingy dive and a steady source of news, The Bilge's beer is always cheap, the gossip always good. The place also has a reputation because Old Dan Malone never turns a paying customer away, "not even if he was straight off the boat and stank of lobster bait."

When Lucy suddenly discovers that The Bilge has been uncharacteristically closed for three days, the investigation becomes the focus of her attentions. What is most peculiar is that Old Dan has always opened his pub at ten o'clock like clockwork. What is even more suspicious is the discovery by the new harbormaster, Harry Crawford, of something breaking through the ice in the bay in front of the pub and steadily coming to the surface.

Soon enough, everyone discovers that the object is a badly decomposed body, possibly even that of Old Dan. The problem, however, is that the body is headless, which makes an authoritative identification difficult at best. But when Dan's wallet and his driver's license are finally found in his pocket, there can be no doubt that the body is in fact that of Dan's.

Lucy is eager to get back to the office and file her story. His death is big news, especially to the crowd of unemployed fishermen and construction workers who begin their day at The Bilge. Gradually word spreads about the gruesome find in the harbor, the beheading obviously done by someone with a sharp blade and a good bit of strength. But who would want to bump off the seemingly harmless old publican? Was ownership of The Bilge, not to mention Old Dan's house and whatever other assets he might have stashed away, a strong enough motive to commit murder?

Almost immediately, suspicion falls on local boys Dave O'Reilly and Brian Donahue. It seems that Old Dan owes five thousand dollars to Dave, who'd been moaning around town about how Dan stiffed him on money he owed for some repairs. In the course of her investigation, Lucy discovers that little grudges have been getting out of hand, and a lot of people had a bone to pick with Dan. The local police, however, offer little hope of solving the mystery of his death anytime soon.

The case takes a strange turn when Lucy learns from Father Ed O'Neil that this year's gala production of Finian's Rainbow is to be held on St. Patrick's Day, and the show is to be directed by Dylan Malone, a washed-up professional actor from Ireland who also just happens to be Dan's younger brother. Lucy is certain that Dylan is somehow connected to his older brother's death, especially when he arrives in town from Ireland with his wife, Moira, and their little girl, Deirdre, strangely wondering where his brother could be.

Dylan is obviously shattered at the news of Old Dan's demise, but Lucy just can't help wondering if Dylan Malone is genuine or if his tearful theatrics have been staged for her benefit. She wants to believe the sincerity of Dylan and Moira's plight, but she can't help remembering they are actors, trained to manipulate the audience's emotions.

Everything comes to a climax when Deirdre and Lucy's ten-year-old daughter, Zoe, goes missing, and Lucy finds herself caught up in an ancient vendetta where innocent little Deirdre is placed in grave danger. Lucy, now more than ever, wants things to be like they were before Dylan and Moira came to Tinker's Cove, bringing murder and mayhem with them.

Even the overly dramatic Moira admits that they have unleashed forces that can't be explained or controlled, and Dylan remains at the center of the mystery even as he's happy to infiltrate the lives of the local population and use whatever he can to pursue his own motives of upgrading The Bilge.

The strength of this novel is in its attention to regional detail as Meier works to bring out all of the colorful attributes of the inhabitants of Tinker's Cove, vividly recreating their eccentricities and foibles. Apart from the likable Lucy Stone, who is unquestionably the star, the wintry landscape of Maine contributes much to the proceedings, its windswept locales acting as a perfect backdrop for these murderous escapades where everything seems connected to the enigmatic Irish curse.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Michael Leonard, 2008

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