“For a community so social and connected
it seemed that there remained a great many secrets.”
An elderly nun walks the convent’s cocker spaniel beside a rural lake. She is struck down with a rock. Another dog walker discovers her body. Who would want to kill a kindly old nun in her nineties? And in Batvia, a Hudson River village where crime is virtually nonexistent?
It is Sheriff Mike Riley‘s job to solve the old nun’s murder. Transplanted to this quiet community from New York City and the NYPD, Mike faces his first major crime since he moved – and the first murder in the village in over seventy years. Married (unhappily), and in his mid-forties, the investigation proves challenging because all of the potential suspects have become his friends…
Writer Bianca St. Denis is a relative newcomer to Batvia. She moved here three years ago with her husband Richard when they purchased an old farmhouse. Now, tragically, Bianca is a widow at age forty-two. She is finding the adjustment to her new status a challenge both emotionally and practically. Before Richard’s death they did everything together and didn’t really assimilate into the town. Now, with only her cat Shelby for company, Bianca tries to get out more. It is mid December, her son is in Japan attending university, and she is facing her first Christmas alone.She volunteers to sit with Agatha Miller, an elderly neighbor who has cancer and has recently broken her hip. She becomes friends with the rather curmudgeonly old woman. Then, Agatha too is dead. In mid winter, Agatha’s bedside window was left wide open and the old lady died of hypothermia. Or did she? Bianca has her doubts…Two elderly ladies dead within two days of each other. Why?
This debut mystery left me a warm feeling and strongly reminded me of Louise Penny’s Three Pines series.
The protagonists were engaging, and the plot kept me enthralled.
There were a lot of characters to meet, but they were easily distinguishable because of the descriptions and backstory given to each by the author. I had many favorites among these. Eugene, the proprietor of Stella’s cafe (named for his late wife), Lester, the elderly lawyer who had a pet skunk, Olivia Last, Bianca’s friend, and cancer survivor, to name but a few.
The setting was idyllic and made you want to visit Batvia-on-Hudson for yourself. I can just imagine going into Stella’s and having a coffee and danish.
I’d be hard pressed to find anything I didn’t like about this novel, but if I did, I’d have to say that I found the cover didn’t do the book justice as it didn’t appeal to me personally.
This is a series that I intend to pursue and already look forward to the author’s second novel featuring these two personable protagonists.
This story was a charming amalgam of serious crime novel and a cozy. A character-rich, well-executed mystery, and a promising beginning for a new series. Recommended!
4.5 stars rounded up for NetGalley, Goodreads, and AmazonI received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Level Best Books via NetGalley – at my request, for my own reading enjoyment and the writing of this review. ISBN: 9781947915763 – ASIN: B08CY91G6T – 338 pages
from author’s website:
Tina deBellegarde has been secretly writing her whole life. When she turned fifty, she decided that she no longer needed to keep it under wraps and started to write and share. As a result, her debut novel Winter Witness, the first in the Batavia-on-Hudson series, was released September 2020 by Level Best Books. The subsequent volumes of the Batavia-on-Hudson series will be released April 2022 and April 2023.
Tina lives and writes in Catskill, New York with her husband Denis, and their cat Shelby. When she isn’t writing she is helping Denis tend their beehives, harvest shiitakes from their mushroom logs, or tend their vegetable garden. She makes lampworked glass beads and contributes to her husband’s jewelry designs. For Tina, baking and cooking are meditations that allow her to plan her writing. She travels to Kyoto, Japan regularly to visit with her son, Alessandro, who has lived there for many years running his media production company.
When she isn’t writing or tending to her hobbies, Tina works at the Catskill Public Library. She is a former middle school teacher, paralegal, and exporter.
Follow Tina deBellegarde on Twitter @tdbwrites