If you blink while you’re driving on the Great River Road north of Alton, Illinois, you might miss River Bend entirely. And that’s not a bad thing. Those of us who live in the tiny town tucked between the bluffs along the Mississippi don’t mind when the world passes us by. I think most of us came to River Bend in the first place looking for something simpler, for friendly neighbors who still gabbed across fences, for a patch of peace and kindness. And River Bend was all those things—simple, friendly, quiet—which is why it took everyone so aback when Milton Grone was murdered.
That’s not to say we were surprised that old Milt was the victim of some very foul play. He had it coming. It’s just that no one’s ever died here except by natural causes (that I’m aware of anyway!).
And when Sheriff Biddle decided to haul in my dear friend Felicity Timmons for questioning simply because she lived next-door to Grone and had endured his unpleasantness (to put it mildly) for years, I knew I couldn’t keep my nose out of it.
Not that I’m a busybody. I do my best to mind my own business when minding my own business is warranted. It’s folks like Clara Foley and Sarah Biddle—the sheriff’s own wife—who do most of the gossiping.
But I’m a 75-year-old woman who’s lived through it all. I’ve given birth to five children, and I’m grandmother to nine. I’ve lost the greatest love of my life, and I’ve outlived the dearest of friends. So I don’t take guff from anyone.
The sheriff likes to think I have a Miss Marple complex, but that’s not the case (although I am a fan of Agatha Christie—who isn’t?).
While I was sure that poor Felicity didn’t lay a hand on Milton Grone, it appeared that others in town had their doubts, like Ida Bell, a dyed-in-the-hemp tree-hugger who despised Grone as much as anyone, particularly since he signed a deal to sell a pristine patch of land near our town to a water park. She even voiced her suspicions at the Stitch ‘n’ Bitch meeting on Lola Mueller’s front porch.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
“Well, she does—or rather, she did—live next door to the man,” Ida remarked, her thin neck arched like an underfed swan’s. “If you’d had to put up with that bear in such close proximity, you’d probably feel as guilty as she does.”
“Guilty?” Helen scoffed, pricked by the insinuation. “Why in heaven should she? Felicity didn’t kill him.”
“Perhaps not,” Ida responded. “But I’ll bet she’s wished him dead at least a thousand times. I know I did, and I’m sure I’m not alone. I doubt there’s a citizen in this town who didn’t have a run-in with Milton that left them wishing he’d go away for good. And if they denied it, they’d be lying.”
* * * * * * * * * * * *
It was true. Milton was a nasty sort who had more enemies than friends. But I knew in my heart that Felicity had nothing to do with it. She’s as gentle as they come and would no more kill a man than squash a spider. So if I had to do a bit of snooping on my own to figure out the truth—since I knew the truth would set Felicity free—it seemed a perfectly logical solution.
How could I sit on the sidelines and wait for the sheriff to finger the culprit when Felicity was out of her mind, thinking she was going to jail?
Just because there’s snow on the roof doesn’t mean there’s no fire in my furnace. My synapses still fire with the best of them. Heck, on a good day, I can do a New York Times crossword in ink.
Not that I didn’t trust Frank Biddle to do his job. I just figured that I could do it better. I did mention I’m mother to five and grandmother to nine, didn’t I?
I rest my case.
You can read more about Helen in To Helen Back, the first book in the new “River Road” mystery series, published by HarperCollins. Book is available at online booksellers.
Comment on this post by 6 p.m. EST on June 11, and you will be entered for a chance to win a copy of either the e-book of TO HELEN BACK or the paperback (which will available out later in June). One winner will be chosen at random. Print copy is US entries only.
Meet the author
Susan McBride is the USA Today bestselling author of Blue Blood and four other award-winning Debutante Dropout Mysteries from HarperCollins including The Good Girl’s Guide To Murder, The Lone Star Lonely Hearts Club, Night Of The Living Deb, and Too Pretty To Die. A sixth title, Say Yes to the Death, will be out in 2015. She has also penned another series for HC/Avon, the River Road Mysteries, starting with To Helen Back on May 27, 2014. Mad as Helen will follow in July 2014 and Not a Chance in Helen in September 2014. Susan’s first young adult thriller, Very Bad Things, will be published in hardcover by Delacorte Press on October 14, 2014.
You can find out more about Susan and her books at susanmcbride.com
Follow dru’s book musing on Facebook for book giveaways, contests, posting about discounted books and some of my reading musings.