Penny Goetjen’s latest book, Murder Returns to the Precipice, is a regional cozy mystery involving an innkeeper facing multiple challenges.
Elizabeth Pennington struggles to shoulder the practical and financial challenges of running her family’s coastal Maine inn. When a young woman is found dead in the inn’s exercise room, it’s only the first in a cascade of troubles that have the innkeeper repeatedly dealing with the police as well as catering to demanding guests and balancing the books.
Both personal and personnel issues demand attention. While Pennington explores her romantic relationship with former FBI man Kurt Mitchell, she relies on — only to lose — a new chef, and also warily chooses a longtime friend with a drinking problem to manage the inn’s front desk. Her own distantly located design business is another distraction.
As death — and (back) taxes — prove themselves no strangers to The Pennington Inn, the overworked innkeeper is also drawn to follow a trail of written messages secreted on the property by her late grandmother.
The author does a workmanlike job with character, plot and pacing, but grammar and style could use polish. Cutesy words like “scoot,” “swoop,” “scoop” are overused (as when he “scooped her into his arms”), as are hackneyed descriptions (“Grabbing on to his torso, she wrapped her arms around him, melting as she felt him envelope her in a safe cocoon”). Occasionally, awkward sentences amuse (“After what seemed like hours of driving around with no purpose other than to stay in motion, Kurt’s cell sounded in the console”).
Finally, the author characterizes one person’s desperation regarding a chronic illness as if such despair would be applicable to anyone facing the same situation, when in reality many endure the illness with grace and fortitude. This portrayal could offend some readers.
The above issues impact the story’s effectiveness. Still, the plot offers some rewards. Regional mystery enthusiasts willing to overlook the flaws mentioned will find entertaining moments in these pages.