After a few years as a police officer in Columbus, Michael Keane has no trouble relaxing into the far less stressful job of deputy sheriff in his small hometown. After all, nothing ever happens in Hidden Springs, Kentucky. Nothing, that is, until a dead body is discovered on the courthouse steps. Everyone in town is a little uneasy. Still, no one is terribly worried–after all the man was a stranger–until one of their own is murdered right on Main Street.
As Michael works to solve the case it seems that every nosy resident in town has a theory. When the sheriff insists Michael check out one of these harebrained theories, his surprising discovery sends him on a bewildering search for a mysterious killer that has him questioning everything he has ever believed about life in Hidden Springs.
Bringing with her a knack for creating settings you want to visit and an uncanny ability to bring characters to life, A. H. Gabhart pens a whodunit that will keep readers guessing.
I love cozy mysteries. This time of year (fall, winter) I love them even more. So when I heard that Gabhart’s October release was in fact a cozy mystery, I couldn’t wait to read it! When I found out that Murder At the Courthouse was a cozy mystery set in my own (and Gabhart’s) beloved Kentucky, I very nearly fangirl clapped in delight.
Cozy mysteries follow a certain formula – small town with quirky but endearing residents, shocking murder that never happens in their town (unless of course the main character owns a crafting shop or knows someone who does – those always seem to bring out homicidal tendencies…), a local eatery that doubles as a gossip hub, and of course a faithful pet. Murder at the Courthouse fits the pattern perfectly.
The story begins with a good dose of charming humor, despite the rather macabre discovery made by the town busybody on her daily trek to the courthouse. A fun way to introduce most of the main players in the story, too, by the way. I liked the blend of characters – their quirks, the turf wars between law enforcement, the typical-to-a-small-town way that everyone knows everybody else’s business – though no one person especially stood out as my favorite. Anthony, the troubled teen, grew on me the most as the story progressed, and I’m most anxious to follow his story in later books. The hint of romance between Michael and his childhood sweetheart intrigued me as well; hopefully, Gabhart will pursue that in future books too.
In a cozy mystery, the mystery is integral but some predictability is really part of the genre. At times while reading Murder at the Courthouse, I found myself hollering the solution at the pages as though hoping my words would somehow penetrate the characters’ apparent cluelessness. At other times, the plot’s twists took me completely by surprise.
Bottom Line: A nice blend of quirky, predictable, and surprising, Murder at the Courthouse proves to be an enjoyable first book for Gabhart’s new Hidden Springs Mysteries. Readers will embrace the characters and become invested in finding out what happens to them as the series continues. Though a bit heavy in narrative and light on dialogue at the beginning of the story, it picks up the pace nicely to head for a stunning conclusion. Perfect for cozy mystery fans everywhere.
(I received a copy of this book in exchange for only my honest review.)
A. H. Gabhart is Ann H. Gabhart, bestselling author of many novels, including Angel Sister, Small Town Girl, and Love Comes Home, several popular Shaker novels such as The Outsider, The Believer, and The Innocent, and The Heart of Hollyhill series. Ann grew up in a small rural town in Kentucky much like Hidden Springs, but Ann is happy to report nobody was ever murdered on her hometown’s courthouse steps. Ann and her husband still live on a farm near that same little town in Kentucky. Learn more at www.annhgabhart.com.