L. A. Dobbs. Telling Lies. Leighann Dobbs Publishing, 2017. E-book.
Telling Lies is written by a prolific mystery writer known for her cozies, mysteries with a minimum of blood and violence. With Telling Lies, the author goes slightly outside the cozy comfort zone. There is still very little blood or violence, but the main character is a police chief. Usually cozy mysteries focus on amateur sleuths à la Murder She Wrote.
Chief Sam Mason oversees the White Rock, New Hampshire, Police Department. There is currently one other full time police officer in the town, Jo, a younger woman who keeps things to herself. There are also the part-timer Kevin, a kind of intern who may not be too serious about police work as a career, and the secretary/dispatcher Reese. White Rock is a small town near the Canadian border. Nothing much happens there except when it does.
A third policeman, Tyler, had recently been shot to death while making an apparently routine traffic stop. While the mystery of Tyler’s death floats in the background, Telling Lies is about another mystery.
Seven young software engineers, men and women, were camping near White Rock. They had all been partying in town and then at their campsite. The next morning, one of them, Lynn Palmer, turns up dead, having floated several hundred yards down a river that runs through the campground.
Telling Lies is written in a classic mystery form. Sam and Jo investigate with the help of a stray dog they call Lucy. Lucy provides a little comic relief as she seems to be able to escape fairly easily from the town’s dog pound. The six remaining campers all have stories that make it sound like they are shocked that anyone would want to kill Lynn, yet it is clear from the evidence that her death was not an accident.
The group had just arrived the day before, so Sam and Jo backtrack to investigate everyone’s whereabouts during the day. Lynn’s cell phone is missing, so they lose out on one piece of evidence that could provide clues. Lynn was found just wearing her underclothes. Her other clothes were piled neatly upstream as though she had gone in for a dip and drowned or lost her footing.
While everyone from the small software company is excited about a new game they are developing, there turns out to be some messy relationship histories among them. So and so used to go with him but now he likes someone else. It almost takes a diagram to sort that stuff out. Besides, Lynn was actually a founding partner of the company with CEO Noah, and there is a provision that if either dies, the other gets the deceased’s share of the company.
It also sounds that as the campers were exploring the town of White Rock earlier in the day, Lynn separated herself from all the others for an hour or two.
A very alert reader might be able to figure out whodunit. Not this reviewer. The ending, though, was very satisfying. Like many Agatha Christie mysteries or the television show Death in Paradise, Sam gathers all the suspects together for “one last meeting” before the campers leave town. He and Jo are able to show in front of everyone who the guilty party is. No, nothing deep, nothing literary, but Telling Lies is a lot of fun with a satisfying conclusion.