Midwest Book Review of “It’s Murder, You Betcha” by Jeanne Cooney

Cozy mystery readers who enjoy a special sense of community and place in their stories will welcome “It’s Murder, You Betcha“, which comes steeped in the culture of the Minnesotan farming town of Hallock.

This second book in the ‘It’s Murder’ series features an ice fishing expedition gone awry when Doris and her sister uncover not fish, but a body. The elderly woman they’ve treated to the outing is understandably upset, and so Doris becomes involved in the investigation to quell her agitation, only to find that a virtual blizzard of lies, deception, and secrets prove ever more puzzling and involving as her probe progresses.

Jeanne Cooney, AuthorJeanne Cooney takes the time to fully present the countenances, relationships, and connections that keep Doris and her associates involved in not only the mystery, but each other and their community: “The sun reflected off the snow and her wire-rimmed glasses. With her impish expression and whisps of white hair sticking out every which way from beneath her pink knit hat, Rose, who was short and getting shorter all the time, reminded me of a pixie. Or perhaps a leprechaun, considering she had immigrated from Ireland as a child. How she and her family ever ended up settling in the land of Swede and Norwegian Lutherans, I had no clue. Then, she became my mother’s best friend and, later, a second mother to Grace and me.”

From relationships with sisters and friends to thought-provoking revelations about town matters and personalities, Cooney’s descriptions often inject a sense of humor into the story even as they deliver a side dish of insights and possibilities that mystery fans will find revealing: “’But he died, Grace. He just got murdered. Jeez, sometimes you’re…’ I let my words fade. What was the point of needling Grace for being…Grace? ’Anyhow,’ I tried again, ‘Dickerson said that Dot’s now too grief stricken to think about anything, including money.’ My sister laughed so hard that she almost fell off her chair.”

Humor abounds even in succinct phrases (“To take stock of the entire street, Grace rotated her head in Exorcist fashion.”), keeping readers absorbed and involved as the story reveals a host of possibilities, confrontations, and surprises. Fueled by Minnesotan culture and atmosphere and community relationships which are put to the brink of breaking over a murder, It’s Murder, You Betcha’s special brand of down-home atmosphere, humor, and entanglements makes it a winning choice.

It’s especially recommended for libraries seeking to expand cozy mystery collections with a strong regional American community focus, and for newcomers and prior readers of Doris and her sister Grace.

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