Monday, June 20, 2016

Maggie Dove by Susan Breen - #review

When Sunday School teacher Maggie Dove finds her hateful next-door neighbor Marcus Bender lying dead under her beloved oak tree—the one he demanded she cut down—she figures the man dropped dead of a mean heart. But Marcus was murdered, and the prime suspect is a young man Maggie loves like a son. Peter Nelson was the worst of Maggie’s Sunday School students; he was also her late daughter’s fiancé, and he’s been a devoted friend to Maggie in the years since her daughter’s death.

Maggie can’t lose Peter, too. So she sets out to find the real murderer. To do that, she must move past the grief that has immobilized her all these years. She must probe the hidden corners of her little village on the Hudson River. And, when another death strikes even closer to home, Maggie must find the courage to defend the people and the town she loves—even if it kills her.



A week or so ago, the electric company came out to do some tree trimming because the trees were interfering with the power lines.  Luckily there were only smaller trees to be cut.  If they had tried something with our trees that have been around for hundreds of years, they might've had a fight on their hands!  So I can understand Maggie Dove's sentimental attachment to the oak tree in her yard.  And if 'someone' afterwards tried to poison the tree, and not subtly at that, to use the words of the immortal Bugs Bunny...,"You realize, of course, this means war!"

I don't think Maggie was ever seriously a suspect, but the guy did die in her yard, at the base of the tree that was in dispute, and she had threatened to kill the next member of that family that came into her yard...and she was sitting inside watching out a window that night with a rock in her hand.  Initially the prime suspect is a young man that had been engaged to Maggie's deceased daughter.  Peter had applied for the sheriff's job when the old sheriff retired.  But some city-boy ex-finance guy comes in and swoops the job out from under Peter, with no law enforcement experience.  And Maggie's neighbor, Bender, had been going to go to the sheriff to get Peter fired.

Bender was not a popular man.  He had a brusque manner and a definite sense of entitlement, what I call a 'holier-than-thou' type.  So there were no shortage of possible suspects: the secretly pregnant 2nd wife (who would be thrown out penniless if she should bear a child according to the pre-nup), the terminally ill 1st wife ... and just about anybody who did business with Bender.  He liked to throw his weight around and that can really irritate a lot of people.

I liked that Maggie had internal debates with herself, questioning if she was taking the best course of action according to her spiritual heritage and practice.  In my opinion, no matter the religion, if more people did that, the world would be a better place.

There was a certain 'je ne sais quoi' to Susan Breen's Maggie Dove.  I can't quite describe it (I know, like that helps in a review, right?) but it was a sense of homeyness, of satisfaction, maybe even belonging.  Maggie cared about the people in her town, and they cared about her.  Even the prickly sheriff was calling her 'my dear' by the end of the book.  I can see myself kicked back on the front porch on a summer evening, maybe with an ice-cold glass of sweet tea, enjoying a breeze and the shade of our maple tree, re-reading Maggie Dove.



Susan Breen is the author of The Fiction Class, her debut novel that won the Washington Irving Book Award. Her stories and articles have appeared in many magazines, among them The Best American Nonrequired Reading, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Compose, Writer’s Digest, and The Writer.  She teaches at Gotham Writers in Manhattan; is on the faculty of the New York Pitch Conference, South Carolina Writers Workshop, and the Women’s National Book Association; and is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters-in-Crime. Breen lives in a small village on the Hudson River with her husband, two dogs, and one cat. Her three children are flourishing elsewhere.


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(Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book from the author and publishers via Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour in exchange for my honest review.  This post contains affiliate links.)

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