by Jean Sheldon

Wellworth Publishing, $15.95, 275 pages

For a murder mystery to succeed, the plot must leave the reader in suspense about who committed the crime to the end of the story. Beyond the plot, compelling characters go a long way to add to the reader’s overall satisfaction. Jean Sheldon provides both a satisfying plot and interesting characters in her latest work, Flowers for Her Grave.

In the small town of Raccoon Grove, a terrible crime was committed that left one prominent man dead and his young daughter missing. On the 20th anniversary of the crime, the local newspaper runs an article on the still unsolved crime, and interest is piqued once again. The paper receives two anonymous letters. The writer of the first letter claims to know the identity of the perpetrator, while the writer of the second professes to know the whereabouts of the long-missing daughter. At the same time, the wife and mother of the victims dies, and a man claiming to be a relative arrives in town to claim his inheritance.

Curiosity aroused, Tracy, the local gossip columnist, and Kate, her florist friend, set out to investigate. Through these two aging baby boomers, the reader meets a host of characters, each with a suspicious connection to the crime and victims. Furthermore, trouble stalks these sleuths as they seek to question the ex-sheriff just before he dies in an accident, become trapped in a burning building, and become the target of a vandal and a sniper.

Sheldon has written a strong plot that will leave most guessing until the final chapters. Her cast of characters makes it almost impossible to discern how all of the pieces of the mystery fit together. Sheldon also provides enough clever twists to make the reader question any assumptions.

Tracy and Kate are delightful main characters. These are not sweet, little old ladies in the vein of Miss Marple. Tracy is a middle-aged woman with a sense of style, a flirtatious relationship with her husband, a few well-placed cuss words, and a spunky demeanor. Kate, by comparison, is a quiet beauty both inside and out, who is just hitting her stride with her business and family in middle age. Flowers for Her Gravehas flaws, the dialogue becomes a little strained at points when Sheldon needs to convey complex emotions through it. Furthermore, the manuscript could benefit from the eye of a sharp proofreader. Overall, however, this is an entertaining and enjoyable mystery.

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