It’s the week before New Year’s Eve and genealogist Lucy Lancaster is ready to mix work and play at the beautiful Hotel Sutton, enjoying herself while finalizing the presentation for her latest client, hotel heiress Pippa Sutton.
Freshly arrived at the hotel—and determined not to think about Special Agent Ben Turner, who went radio silent on her after one date—Lucy is stopped in her tracks when a strange man comes staggering toward her. She barely has time to notice his weak, sweaty appearance before he presses a classic Montblanc pen onto her hand, gasps, “Keep them safe,” and collapses at her feet, dead.
When Lucy shows the fountain pen to her grandfather, an avid collector and World War II veteran, she’s in for another shock. Not only does Grandpa recognize the Montblanc, he also reveals a secret: he was an Allied spy during the war and the pen is both a message regarding one of his wartime missions and the key to reading a microdot left by the dead man.
On the microdot is a series of ciphers, some decrypted to form names. Could they be the descendants of Grandpa’s fellow spies? When two from the list end up murdered—including the chef at the Hotel Sutton—and Grandpa’s life is put in jeopardy, Lucy’s sure she’s right. And with Lucy’s and Pippa’s names possibly on the list, too, she’s got to uncover the past to protect those in the present.
With a secret Allied mission, old grievances, and traitors hiding behind every corner, Lucy must use her research skills to trace the list’s World War II ancestors and connect the dots to find a killer in their midst—a killer who’s determined to make sure some lineages end once and for all.
How unique is a genealogist in a cozy mystery? And it works! Certainly a unique concept with an apparently strong female protagonist, no skeletons in her family closet!
Lucy Lancaster has been hired by Pippa Sutton, a young woman assuming leadership of her flagship cozy hotel business. Lucy will bring together the extended family to present the genealogical history of the Sutton family concluding with a detailed video presentation including interviews with family members and their memories.
Upon her arrival, however, a man hands her an object as he collapses at her feet with a plea to “keep them safe.” When she recovers the object from the hotel’s dog, a pen, she recognizes it as a very special and valuable antique and notifies her grandfather to have a look at it. Almost immediately, he makes a trip to her location to work with her regarding a highly classified and long buried World War II mission.
Well, nothing is simple and this just got very complex, very quickly.
The location in Austin and the restored hotel itself is very picturesque. There are multiple characters, each with their own agenda and sometimes it seems that only Pippa is genuine. Lucy’s grandfather, George Lancaster, with whom she’s always had a special bond, sits her down to tell her about a spy ring he worked with. First, the two must decipher a code called “pigpen cipher” (apparently a well-known code easily searched on the WWW). There is information on search registries, who can request, how long certain searches remain private, as well as hints on search services.
It is a well-plotted narrative with puzzle pieces gradually being drawn into the picture as they find another name, additional murders (off page), with a pleasing pace. Lucy has a pseudo-romance who disappears in a mini-sub-plot and Lucy’s two best friends (and office colleagues) are introduced.
Most of us have that innate curiosity to figure out how we got here. I’ve worked at it, hitting a wall with my own grandfather (yes–that one, Stanley McShane–quite the enigma), so this is all fascinating stuff to me. I found Lucy just a tad annoying, but loved how she so quickly caught on to nuances and I gradually warmed up to her. The conclusion wrapped up all the ends, though seemed just a bit verbose, the antagonist being apparent fairly early. This was easily read as a standalone and was quite engaging and entertaining.
Receiving this digital download free from the publisher and NetGalley did not affect my opinion of the book or the content and this is my honest opinion. As a cozy, I expected a recipe or two for those luscious Tex-Mex dishes described. Alas, not to be. Recommended for any who enjoys a good mystery on the lighter side.
Genre: Cozy Mystery, Amateur Sleuth
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Print Length: 344 pages
Publication Date: To be released July 21, 2020
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Rosepoint Publishing: Four point Five of Five Stars
The Author: S.C. Perkins is a fifth-generation Texan who grew up hearing fascinating stories of her ancestry and eating lots of great Tex-Mex, both of which inspired the plot of her debut mystery novel. Murder Once Removed was the winner of the 2017 Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery competition. She resides in Houston and, when she’s not writing or working at her day job, she’s likely outside in the sun, on the beach, or riding horses.
Find S.C. at http://www.scperkins.com or on social media at @SCPerkinsWriter
©2020 V Williams