Friday, May 20, 2011

Grace Interrupted

Grace Interrupted
Author: Julie Hyzy
Berkley, 2011
278 pages

I had an opportunity to receive a free advanced reading copy (ARC) of this book from the author in exchange for a review. Having previously read the first book in the Manor House Mystery series (Grace Under Pressure, reviewed June 2010), I was both happy and honored to do this.

In the first book, Grace Wheaton was just getting settled into her new role as curator of Marshfield Manor in a small tourist town. Grace Interrupted opens just a short time later. The grounds of the manor have been transformed into a Civil War camp and battleground, and the Blue and Gray reenactors are in town. When one of them is murdered, it seems there's no shortage of people with motives, including Grace's sort-of boyfriend, landscape gardener Jack Embers.

Many years ago, Jack's sister was involved with the victim's brother, who was also murdered. Lots of folks thought Jack did it, and that he got off because his father was a cop. Now it seems as if the clues are again pointing to Jack, or to his offbeat younger brother, Davey.

Grace's assistant, Frances, makes no bones about her feelings when it comes to trusting the Embers brothers. Yet she willingly goes undercover among the reenactors in order to dig for dirt, and in doing so becomes not just Grace's assistant but her sidekick. A word or two about Frances. She's worked at the manor longer than anyone else. She's nosy, crotchety, and highly disagreeable. Yet you can't help but like her. At least I do. She reminds me of someone I used to work with - I'll say no more about that. But I have a feeling that by the time Hyzy is finished with this series, Frances will be redeemed.

In addition to Jack and Frances, several characters from the first book are back: Tooney, the annoying private detective; Grace's boss, the wealthy Bennett; and Grace's housemates, wine shop partners Scott and Bruce. Several new characters add to the story and potential growth of the series. One of these is Tank, a (female) police consultant imported from Michigan to bring the police department into the twenty-first century, much like Grace was brought to Marshfield Manor. Tank may roll some people over, but she's probably a marshmallow on the inside. Perhaps we'll get to know her more in future books. But the coolest new character of all is Bootsie, a stray tuxedo cat who makes her way into Grace's life and home.

The Civil War reenactment makes an interesting backdrop, with some colorful characters . . . like the pompous play-by-the-rules General, the ornery Hennessey (some of his scenes with Frances were laugh-out-loud funny), and the Soiled Doves, a group of women who role-play, um, shall we say nineteenth century ladies of the night.

All in all, Grace Uninterrupted is a nice second installment to a series that fits nicely into the cozy mystery category. I look forward to book number three.