Book Review: An engaging mystery, with a local feel

  • “Chasing the Case”

  • WEISBLAT Recorder Staff/PAUL FRANZ

For the Recorder
Friday, May 18, 2018

I may not be the world’s most objective reviewer for “Chasing the Case.” I’m a sucker for a mystery with a strong female sleuth — and that’s precisely what Joan Livingston has crafted in her new novel. So, of course, I had a wonderful time reading it.

Livingston is a retired journalist who lives in Shelburne Falls. Her book’s heroine, Isabel Long, also resides in a small western Massachusetts town — the fictional Conwell, which can boast about 1,000 people, one general store and one bar.

Isabel has had a hard year. Her beloved husband died a year ago, and she has recently lost her job as managing editor of the local major newspaper. She soldiers on, comforted by her family — particularly her 92-year-old mother, who has recently moved into Isabel’s house.

Trying to find focus in her life, Isabel looks through “cold case” files she brought home from the newspaper. She decides to delve into a mystery that has bothered her for almost three decades.

One morning, 28 years earlier, Adela Snow Collins failed to show up for work at her parents’ general store in Conwell. When her father went to Adela’s house to check on her, he found broken dishes, Adela’s purse and no sign of his daughter. Her car was missing from the garage.

Months later, her car was found abandoned in a remote woodland area. No one has ever found a body. Adela was declared dead seven years later.

Most people close to the missing woman suspect murder, although no one knows whether she killed herself or was killed by someone else.

With the help of her own remarkably spry mother, Isabel tries to figure out what happened to Adela. She begins her investigation by talking to the victim’s father, who welcomes Isabel’s sleuthing and even offers to pay her. She goes on to talk to family, friends and just about everyone in town.

She takes on a part-time job bartending at the local bar, The Rooster, in order to meet more suspects. This leads to a surprising light romance with the bar’s owner, and eventually to the solution of the crime.

“Chasing the Case” is an engaging read. Isabel and her mother are charming, believable characters, and Isabel’s commitment to finding the truth is admirable.

The only thing this book lacks is a recipe. Isabel’s Portuguese-American mother makes delicious dishes I would love to know more about. Perhaps Livingston will provide one in future volumes; her current novel is only the first of Isabel Long’s projected adventures. I look forward to reading them.

“Chasing the Case” will be released on Friday, May 18. Joan Livingston will read from the book and sign copies on Wednesday, May 23, at 6:30 p.m. at Boswell’s Books in Shelburne Falls.

Tinky Weisblat is the author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook,” “Pulling Taffy,” and the forthcoming “Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb.” Visit her website, www.TinkyCooks.com.