My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Debbie De Louise's new novel Between A Rock and a Hard Place is a great example of a “cozy mystery.” This type of novel is defined by Wikipedia as “a subgenre of crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously, and the crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community.” Between A Rock and a Hard Place takes place in Cobble Cove, a small community that reminds me of Stars Hollow from the TV show Gilmore Girls, except when things go wrong in Cobble Cove they go REAL wrong.
De Louise spends the first part of her book establishing the warm and fuzzy atmosphere of life in Cobble Cove. Alicia, the main character, is a happily married mother of twin babies, Carol and Johnny. (The boy is named after Alicia's husband, John.) Alicia works as a librarian at Cobble Cove's public library where she has a good relationship with all her coworkers and a wonderful director, Sheila, who is as understanding as anyone can be about work/life balance. Sheila works the circulation desk if someone has a conflict and is not above bending the rules slightly to offer an employment opportunity to one of Alicia's friends. Alicia is leading as idyllic a lifestyle as is humanly possible, until she notices some odd, slightly frightening things happening in her community.
Between A Rock and a Hard Place is the second Cobble Cove mystery. There are a number of references to actions that took place in the first book, A Stone's Throw, but this novel can stand on its own. I haven't read the first and had no trouble understanding what led to the events in the second.
The mystery in De Louise's novel is good, with a horrible crime and enough possible suspects to keep the plot interesting, but the characters and community dominate the work. I would recommend Between A Rock and a Hard Place to readers who like their crime stories in gentle environments. It reminded me of a number of TV series I've enjoyed, including Murder She Wrote and Rosemary and Thyme.
Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul, White Horse Regressions, and Hopatcong Vision Quest
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