Title: Murder at Barclay Meadow
Author: Wendy Sand Eckel
Publication Date: 2015
When Rosalie Hart’s husband confesses to an affair, she seeks refuge at her late aunt’s farmhouse on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Although her aunt passed away two years ago and Rosalie had done nothing with the property since, she feels a bond to the place that provides fond memories of her childhood. Rosalie struggles to find her place in the isolated community that is so different from the DC suburb she fled, when she gains some unexpected and uncomfortable notoriety. From her porch, Rosalie notices something floating in the marsh grasses on her property. She investigates only to discover the body of a young woman. The sheriff rules the death an accident but Rosalie cannot shrug away the suspicious feeling that there is more to the story.
In an effort to meet friends and attempt to rejoin the world of the living, Rosalie enrolls in a creative writing class. The class consists of Tony, a recent divorcee living on a boat; Glenn, senior looking to write his memoirs, and Sue, a Facebook genius with her own secrets. Sharing her questions and concerns about Megan, the dead girl, Rosalie and the group begins to discuss and ponder “What-ifs” about the scenario and the people involved.
As the group becomes very invested in discovering the truth, Rosalie is still dealing with the new life that she has been forced into. Unwanted attentions from a college professor, the disconnect from her old friends and neighbors, her daughter’s struggles with her ex’s new love interest, and her tentative connection with Tyler, her aunt’s former handyman on the farm, all vie for her attention. When an unseen attack proves that the group may be on to something that the police haven’t discovered, the group must decide whether or not to continue their pursuit for justice for Megan.
I really enjoyed this book. It was a great blend of a coming-of-age/new-point-in-life novel with a mystery. The back and forth between these two genres in the novel kept me engaged and I was genuinely interested in Rosalie’s own personal story as well as trying to figure out the “who dun it.”
The primary communication of the group occurred through Facebook comments and the author did a great job at presenting information and character development through the Facebook posts. The use of these postings provided a lot insight into the story, as well as making some commentary on our society’s use and abuse of all forms of social media. Without being preachy or even being a social commentary novel, the format definitely forces the reader to think.
I liked the character of Rosalie and especially enjoyed her honesty with herself and her situation. Often in books like this, there is a deus ex machina feel at the end where the character breaks completely from the past and moves forth into a lovely new life. A nice sentiment but not entirely practical. Rosalie does have some self-discoveries but there is obviously still unfinished business. The book reads well as a stand-alone novel, but I also feel there is opportunity for a continuation of the story. This is the author’s first novel and I look forward to future works.
Who might like this book:
This is a good mystery with more depth than a cozy mystery. For fans of contemporary fiction who might what to dip their foot in the mystery waters, this is a great choice. I think this would also be a lot of fun to discuss with Facebook fans. The use of Facebook in solving the mystery and learning about others is really thought-provoking. A great book club read!