As the owner of Miracle Books, Nora Pennington figures all the wet weather this spring is at least good for business. The local inns are packed with stranded travelers, and among them Nora finds both new customers and a new friend, the sixtysomething Sheldon, who starts helping out at the store.
Since a little rain never hurt anyone, Nora rides her bike over to the flea market one sodden day and buys a bowl from Danny, a Cherokee potter. It’ll make a great present for Nora’s EMT boyfriend, but the next day, a little rain turns into a lot of rain, and the Miracle River overflows it banks. Amid the wreckage of a collapsed footbridge, a body lies within the churning water.
Nora and the sheriff both doubt the ruling of accidental drowning, and Nora decides it’s time for the Secret, Book, and Scone Society to spring into action. When another body turns up, it becomes clearer that Danny’s death can’t be blamed on a natural disaster. A crucial clue may lie within the stone walls of the Inn of Mist and Roses: a diary, over a century old and spattered with candle wax, that leads Nora and her friends through a maze of intrigue—and onto the trail of a murderer . . .
Since coming to Miracle Springs, Nora has broken all her self-imposed rules. Given her difficult past, Nora wasn’t going to get attached to anything or anyone beyond her bookstore and little home. In recent months, however, Nora has acquired several new close friends, a boyfriend (of sorts), and helped solve at least two major crimes. So much for following the rules.
In the time since the last murder, Nora and her friends have tried to settle back into normal life. For Nora and Hester that means a ridiculously busy business, for Estella it means a business on the brink of collapse, and for June, it means settling into her new position as manager of the hot springs. Both Nora and Hester are in desperate need of help at their respective businesses and all want to see Estella back on her feet and not worrying about the state of her livelihood. The women want nothing more than to help one another and resume their lives as usual, but, as always, fate has other plans.
One of Nora’s favorite places to visit in her limited time off is the flea market where she picks up odds and ends to sell at the bookstore. One of her newest favorite couples are Danny and Marie, two talented local artisans who sell stunning wares. Unfortunately, Nora’s budding friendship with the couple is cut short when she stumbles across Danny’s body floating in the river. Though Nora hadn’t known Danny well, or for long, she liked he and his wife tremendously and wants to know how her new friend ended up in the river. Though the sheriff absolutely does not want Nora and her friends involved (again!), the women are determined to do some sleuthing of their own.
Running parallel to the latest murder mystery is the personal live of all four women. Nora is dealing with her new feelings towards Jed and how to move forward with him, Hester is dealing with her past and how it is negatively impacting her present, June is still struggling with the estrangement from her beloved son, and Estella is desperate to save her business. As always, each of the women is there to help the other, but the stakes seem to be higher than ever. Solving a murder is dangerous enough, but there also seems to be a stalker in town who is specifically targeting Nora and her friends. With more going on than any one woman can handle, it’s imperative the women stick together and support one another through this dark and dangerous time.
The Bottom Line: I’ve liked this series before, but it really steps up to a new level in this installment. There is so much going on in this read and every bit of it is interconnected and woven together beautifully. The murder of Nora’s friend takes the reader back and forth between the past and the present and introduces three new characters that will hopefully be making appearances in future installments of the series. The mysterious stalker advances the story of one of the four women significantly, and Nora has a new employee that is a wonderful, wonderful addition to the bookstore and the series! In all, I found this book to the strongest and most enjoyable of the series to date. I certainly hope this trend continues!