The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Globe Life

April 16, 2012

Patty Crane: Light-hearted series gets heavier with each book

JOPLIN, Mo. — When I travel, I always make sure I have plenty in the way of reading material. Because I was going to Philadelphia and Dallas, I perused the new books shelf at the Joplin Library to find some traveling companions.

I found just what I was looking for in Lisa Bork’s “In Sickness and In Death.” When I get to read for pleasure I like mystery and suspense, and I like to read series. This little mystery is the third in the “Broken Vows” series. What more could I ask?

Well, I could ask for the first, “For Better, for Murder,” and the second, “For Richer, for Danger,” installations in the series. The library had both books checked in so I was ready for layovers, delays and long car rides.

In “For Better, for Murder” we meet Jolene Asdale. Jolene owns Asdale Auto Imports in Wachobe, N.Y., a quaint village on the lake. With the help of her mechanic and friend, Cory Kempe, she is a step away from making her business a success.

Jolene deals in exotic cars and has just bought a Ferrari Spider with the ideal customer lined up to take a look and take it home. Everything is perfect until she opens the door to show the beautiful Italian leather interior ÑÊand a dead man falls out.

Her call for help brings the local chief of police plus a deputy, Ray Parker, from the sheriff’s office. When Walter, the police chief, loses his breakfast at the sight of the body, Deputy Parker takes over. Ray is tall, good-looking, competent and Jolene’s almost ex-husband.

After three years apart from Ray, Jolene finally accepted a date and went out a few times with accountant Tim Lapham. Now Tim has just fallen out of her Ferrari with a knife in his chest, and Jolene is the prime murder suspect.

Sweethearts since high school and married for more than a decade, Jolene and Ray had only one problem: Ray wanted children, and Jolene was too leery of her genetic heritage to want to pass it on.

When Jolene was 12 her mentally ill mother committed suicide, leaving Jolene behind with her little sister Erica. Their eccentric father left most the care of Erica to Jolene. When Erica was diagnosed as bipolar, and after several suicide attempts entered a treatment facility, Jolene knew she would never risk having children.

Even though this issue drove them apart, Jolene still depends on Ray, and she trusts him to help her find the killer. But as the evidence piles up against Jolene and Ray shows signs of finally moving past their broken marriage, Jolene knows she needs to help herself if she wants to avoid being charged with murder.

This entertaining novel with a likable cast of characters was a light, quick read, and I expected more of the same with the second and third in the series. However, as the series develops, elements of family drama creep in, and they are not as light as I first thought. The peril Jolene faces is not only physical but can be emotional too.

Jolene is still asking questions and trying to find answers. In “For Richer, for Danger,” the search is for baby Noelle’s mother since her name and social security number match those of someone who died a year ago. As for “In Sickness and In Death,” the mystery involves finding out who a severed arm in the trunk of a stolen car belongs to, is she dead, and who killed her?

All of these novels have multiple storylines in addition to their mysteries, and the cast of characters has depth. So whether I’ll be traveling or at home in my favorite reading spot, I look forward to the next book in this entertaining series.

Also, if you are in a book club, each novel has a list of book club questions in the back.

 

Patty Crane is the reference librarian for the Joplin Public Library.

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