A Book Review by Jackie Houchin
HOMICIDE ON THE RANGE is the first book in the third mystery series that Elise M. Stone has created. It’s an offshoot from her African Violet Club mysteries, featuring the very likable and capable senior sleuth Lilliana Wentworth, now Lilliana MacAlistair having married the handsome ex-spy, Christopher.
This book tells of the very first guests at the Dude Ranch, six women who were all in the same dorm at college decades earlier. But right from the start there is complaining, bickering, put-downs, and verbal fighting. Several blatantly vie for the affections of the handsome ranch wrangler, Garth. Lilliana wonders why they all wanted to spend a week together miles from a town.
Of course you know that one of them has to die, or it wouldn’t be a mystery novel, and you kind of get who it will be – the most obnoxious of the bunch. Yep. When she doesn’t show up for dinner, Lilliana and Garth ride to her last known location and find her body.
Was it an accident? The Sheriff believes so. Lilliana is not so sure and begins her nosy questions and collecting clues. Some of the other women have alibis, some don’t. One is distraught that she is dead, another is quite glad.
Lilliana also has to deal with the general running of the Dude Ranch, managing the ranch hands, keeping a watchful eye on Christopher, who interestingly, is recovering from long Covid, and keeping the press from destroying the Ranch’s reputation before they get started.
I enjoyed the story. I had my suspicions as to the killer, but wasn’t sure until the end. The writing is smooth, easy to follow and keeps you turning the pages with mini-cliff hangers throughout. And the author develops the side characters thoroughly so you feel you know them all. And… in the very last chapter you learn some very cool things about Lilliana’s ex-spy husband, that hopefully will be ongoing in the series.
I’m looking forward to the next book.
There is an intro-story telling of how and why Lilliana and Christopher landed as managers of a dude ranch in Arizona, titled THE RETURN OF RAINBOW RANCH. You can get this short book by signing up for Elise Stone’s newsletter at https://www.elisemstoneauthor.com/newsletter.
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