A Crafty Killing by Lorraine Bartlett is the first book in the new “Victoria Square” mystery series. Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime (Penguin), February 2011

Lorraine also writes as Lorna Barrett, author of the New York Times best-selling “Booktown” mystery series.

Murder is right up her alley

The last thing Katie Bonner wanted was to become the manager of Artisans Alley. But when her business partner, Ezra Hilton, is found lying at the bottom of a staircase, bludgeoned to death, she has no other choice. A collection of booths for artisans and craft sellers in a renovated apple warehouse, Artisans Alley is the main attraction in the quaint Victoria Square shopping area. But business under Ezra had been faltering—enough to provoke someone to murder?

Katie has had more than her share of death—her late husband (an Ezra’s former partner), Chad, died in a car accident six months ago. But as she digs deeper into Ezra’s murder, her husband’s death starts to look suspicious. While the cops are proceeding by the book, Katie is investigating by the booths—for the answer to the killer’s identity lies in the hidden secrets of Artisans Alley itself.

In this debut series, Lorraine has crafted a book that will whet your appetite for what lurks inside a village square – murder. We are introduced to Katie Bonner, recently widowed and business partner in an artisan gallery. When Ezra, her business partner is found dead, Katie not only becomes majority shareholder of the business, but soon become a suspect. Believing that the local police are not doing enough to solve Ezra’s death, Katie starts collecting answers to her questions and learns that everyone in the village square has something to hide and she’ll quickly need to expose those secrets before the killer closes her shop, permanently.

This was worth the wait since I first heard of this new series. The evenly-paced, cleverly written plot had me on pins and needles as to the identity of the killer. In fact, I was stumped throughout most of the story, but when the pieces fell into place, it was like whoa…I didn’t see that coming. With a refreshing tone, a small-town village-square setting, crisp dialogue and interesting characters this is a great beginning and I look forward to reading more about Katie and her friends in this wonderful and charming series.

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