Book Review by Debbie Winkler
Target Age Group: adults
Liz Sullivan was innocently enjoying a pear and a book when Pigpen Murphy accosted her. Liz could just never get it through to Pigpen that she wasn’t interested and never would be interested, bad smell notwithstanding. It is true that she had to be a little more forceful than usual, slamming the door shut on her home, her snug little VW bus, and Pigpen’s hand just happened to be in the way at the time, but was that any reason for him to smash a fist through her window? Things just got worse when Liz woke up to find a very dead Pigpen underneath her bus the next morning.
Detective Paul Drake obviously regarded Liz as his prime suspect and a strong flight risk, due to her highly mobile “house.” Liz greatly resented Detective Drake prying into her affairs and ripping apart her carefully constructed life in Palo Alto, CA. Liz liked living in the Bay area and didn’t want to move, but she knew that it would only be a matter of time before her abusive ex-husband would show up. Still, she couldn’t leave before the police investigation was cleared up, so Liz continued researching her new article, teaching a Senior Center Writer’s Workshop, swimming at the local pool and helping out the temporarily incapacitated Claudia Kaplan. However, as Liz continued to maintain her innocence, more bodies began to pile up with another vagabond and a sweet old lady being murdered in the same manner. And Liz was the last one reported to see them alive…
Murder in a Nice Neighborhood by Lora Roberts was a thoroughly enjoyable mystery and a great start to the Liz Sullivan Mystery series. I found the main character to be very interesting and unique in that she was homeless and what most would consider a vagrant, but she led her life in a normal fashion and had a good reason for traveling around. I also loved her views of the other characters in the book and the author really seemed to have fun with certain stereotypes such as Claudia Kaplan, an author who still mourned her husband’s passing 10 years previously and was sharper than a tack; Vivien, a sweet, old, retired lady just barely making ends meet, but still determined to live out her life the way she wanted; Delores Mitchell, the all-too-perfect loan manager who never had a hair out of place and was just so much fun to tease; Ted, the ambitious real estate agent who was ready to pour on the charm, anytime, anyplace; and Paul Drake, the constantly disheveled detective who seemed like a bumbler, but was really a great investigator and a host of others. I enjoyed reading about the characters more than learning about the mystery, actually. I didn’t think the mystery was that difficult to solve and had suspicions pretty early on as to whodunit, but the book was still enjoyable and very well written. Recommended for fans of mysteries in the cozy genre.
This mystery contains descriptions of dead bodies, but nothing too detailed, graphic or gross. The main character fled an abusive relationship and fears her ex-husband will hunt her down so there is quite a bit of discussion of spousal abuse and fear in the book. Liz is also homeless so you learn quite a bit about the homeless community in central California. There is a touch of romance between the main character and the detective, as is usual in cozy mysteries, but this is very clean and doesn’t really get past the thought stage. Very little bad language and very clean. Recommended for ages 14 and up.