Cozy or General Fiction? A Review of Murder at Barclay Meadow by Wendy Sand Eckel

murderatbarclayRosalie Hart has left her cheating husband and moved to her aunt’s old farm on the east shore of Maryland. It’s a small town and as such everyone seems to know everyone else’s business. This will work both for and against her as she investigates the murder of the young woman whose body washes up on her land facing the river. Why would Rosalie investigate? Because the Sheriff, among others, seems to be bent on covering up whatever happened to the young woman.

In an effort to find something to do, Rosalie takes a course in memoir writing. There she makes friends with the small group who have enrolled in the class. They discuss the murder and end up agreeing to help her investigate. They form a Facebook group called the What Ifs and meet online to discuss the case. The use of Facebook in this mystery was interesting and I hadn’t run across it before. It made the characters seem more real, more current.

As the book progresses, the focus shifts from Rosalie’s personal life to the mystery and back again. Both parts are well written. I’m almost reluctant though to call it a straight up cozy because of the amount of time spent on developing Rosalie’s character. There are times it almost could be considered chick lit or general fiction.

I liked most of the characters in the book, especially Tyler who farms the land she owns. The one character I really didn’t like was the Sheriff. I think that was the result of good writing since Eckel wrote him as unlikable.

The pace of the book is fairly steady up until the very end. This is not generally a fast-paced book. I wasn’t able to divine in advance the murderer. It was one of the ones on their list of suspects, but it could have been almost any of them up until that point.

I emphasized the mystery part in my review, but really there is at least the same amount of writing done about Rosalie and her life circumstances. There’s nothing wrong with that. And it was well written. But, it makes me think that the book could almost be shelved under general fiction instead of in the mystery section. How much writing about the main character is necessary when setting up a new sleuth for a series? So many of the mysteries I read could be considered light cozies. Perhaps the amount of writing about the main character is different in the light cozy genre than in whatever genre this one falls into?

I still give this book 4 stars. The writing was well done. And I would still call it a cozy, but it is borderline to being general fiction. I’d be interested in reading the next one in the series and seeing where the author takes it.


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