Maureen Mackey





Awe-Struck E-Books, Feb 2004
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood


Francie Steele is in the awkward position of a student marrying a professor. As if her wedding preparations weren’t enough, she finds herself unofficially investigating a death which has been officially labeled a suicide. Lillie Addison is one of two assistant professors being considered for tenure. Since tenure means all-but-guaranteed employment for life, competition is stiff. Lillie and Jake Bartholomew, the other candidate, are campaigning like tigers circling each other for battle, and Lillie looks like a winner. This is what makes her suicide so unlikely.

Francie might have been able to leave Lillie’s death alone, except that her fiancé Sam is getting death threats. This wonderful, supportive man, who even loves Francie’s five-year-old daughter Savannah, is too good to lose. However, in his classroom, Professor Samuel Pope is severe. He has made even more enemies among students than Lillie and Jake have. Francie will not risk having him die, too.

Meanwhile, Francie’s mother lands on the doorstep, gung-ho on the idea of a huge, all-out wedding. Between trying to curb her mother, pass her finals, and investigate Lillie’s death, Francie can barely keep her head on straight. She would thank goodness for her helpful friends – except that the killer knows too much that should be known only by her friends.

As characters, Francie, Sam, and Savannah are all sweeties, heartwarming to spend time with. Lillie is especially well described, dangerously seductive and mysterious. Jake and his woman-juggling act, Lillie’s devastated husband Brian and devoted cousin Rebecca, the hapless student assistant Cheryl, all contribute to a series of intriguing events. There isn’t a high level of suspense – I guessed the murderer early, in spite of a couple of unexpected twists – but this cozy mystery isn’t about suspense, it’s about taking time out for a heartwarming read.

In MARRIAGE CAN BE MURDER, author Maureen Mackey lightly resurrected my memories of college atmosphere from the student point of view. She seems quite familiar with university politics from the staff point of view, as well. Her story is set in Portland, Oregon, a place which has not been overused in fiction, in a pleasant, idiosyncratic section of town. Her off-hand mentions of church chimes and sidewalk statuary recreate the setting nicely. All in all, reading MARRIAGE CAN BE MURDER was a surprisingly enjoyable way to spend an evening. It is the second mystery in a series which began with BOUND BY BLOOD, covering the events which brought Sam and Francie together.

Feb 2004 Review


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