A sports editor encounters death and duplicity in a small-town newsroom.
When Mimi Goldman returns to Chautauqua, New York, after a 16-year absence to resume her duties as sports editor for the local daily paper, she has no reason to expect that she will again be confronted by a colleague’s murder. Yet within five weeks, she discovers the body of the paper’s editor, Joe Wentworth, slumped at his desk after suffering a gunshot wound. Two suspects are arrested in his car with his stolen credit cards, and most Chautauquans consider the matter closed. But Mimi questions the police’s conclusion and launches her own investigation, setting up an elaborate ruse at the newspaper that has her posing as a law enforcement liaison. Soon she’s interviewing suspects and potential witnesses, collecting possible physical evidence from outside the crime scene, and searching through the victim’s belongings. She even enlists her adult son to do some Internet sleuthing. Her probe leads her to uncover romantic and sexual entanglements, unrequited crushes, and past commitments about which her boss and friend was scrupulously reticent. She also discovers a potential enemy from within the newspaper’s own ranks. This is Pines’ (Gone Fishin’, 2016, etc.) third Mimi Goldman outing set in Chautauqua, with the second a whimsical novelette devoid of murders. But both the first book and this one suffer from an insufficient explanation of Mimi’s motivations. The fact that the victims were dear friends doesn’t fully clarify why she willingly sacrifices safety and relationships to pursue her nebulous suspicions. Nevertheless, this is an enjoyable, agreeably paced reading experience with solid character development and numerous plot twists. Mimi gains a new love interest, and her fears about navigating the romance make for some of the tale’s most emotionally resonant scenes. Other relationships are less skillfully handled, especially the sly speculation regarding a male character’s possible crush on a guy. Quirky use of colons (“the other three non-college-aged staffers: were Mimi”), outdated slang (“cig” for “cigarette”), and a character’s repeated recitations of the Lord’s Prayer in its entirety detract from the narrative’s flow. Still, Pines pays particular attention to her delightful lakeside setting, inviting readers to appreciate it through her vibrant descriptions. And though the foreshadowing is a bit clumsy, there are enough teasers and red herrings to make the ending a surprise.
A light, entertaining read from a mystery author whose pleasure in her characters remains evident and welcome.