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LIVE FREE OR DIE
By Jessie Crockett
Mainly Murder Press, 2010 ($15.41)
Kindle eBook: $0.99
Reviewed by Katherine Petersen
Live Free or Die, the debut cozy mystery by Jessie Crockett, takes place in the small New Hampshire town of Winslow Falls. While it has a touch too much colloquialism, the plot and attention to prejudice make it worth the read. Gwen Fifield, the middle-aged postmistress and assistant volunteer fire chief, ends up heading the investigation of a rash of fires including the latest of a historical museum that caused the death of the old woman who oversaw it.
The fire chief keeled over with a heart attack after a glimpse of the burned body. Much to the dismay of the other firefighters, Gwen teams up with Hugh, a big and good-natured state fire marshal to determine the identity of the arsonist and now potential killer.
This is all in all a good thing, as Ray, the police chief, likely couldn't find his way out of a paper bag. Crockett brings the townspeople to life — and a quirky cast of characters they are, but she also shows us their foibles along with their personalities. Most of them throw blame on the DaSilvas, a Brazilian family who recently moved to the town, but Gwen isn't so sure. In the process, she learns more about her neighbors than she ever wanted to know. Things get more interesting when the body count piles up, the list of suspects grows, antiques go missing and we learn about the No Nothing Party from the mid-1800s whose prejudice mirrors the current viewpoints of many of Gwen's neighbors. Disturbing to learn just how far we haven't come.
Crockett's style is clean and crisp with some dashes of humorous dialogue thrown in the mix. Crockett's addition of a love interest for Gwen, a widow of seven years, adds a nice touch. As with many cozies, much of the investigating depends on chatting with people and overheard gossip, but cozy fans will enjoy the history, the plot and the people although they might figure out the culprit before the end. Personally, I enjoy cozies, and once I forgave Gwen for harping on her own insecurities a bit too much, I enjoyed the story.
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