Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Mystery Book Review: Mausoleum by Justin Scott

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written a review of Mausoleum by Justin Scott. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Mausoleum by Justin ScottBuy from
Mausoleum by
A Ben Abbott Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-468-6 (1590584686)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-468-2 (9781590584682)
Publication Date: December 2007
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): When Newbury Connecticut’s three hundred year old village cemetery is invaded by a gaudy, half-million dollar mausoleum, Ben Abbott is not happy.

Newcomer Brian Grose’s tall, wide, mirror-polished eruption of eternal ego sticks out in the peaceful burying ground like a McMansion in an apple orchard. Ben’s fellow drinkers at the bar have nicknamed the monstrosity, “McTomb.” But no one expected to find Brian’s body locked in his mausoleum, fifty years ahead of schedule.

Then Homeland Security Immigration Criminal Enforcement agents descend on Newbury hunting for Charlie Cubrero, an illegal immigrant farm hand—and supposed gang leader—who bought a gun after he was stiffed for fifty bucks by Brian Grose.

Ben Abbott doesn’t buy it. Half the town was in the graveyard celebrating Newbury’s tercentennial when Brian was shot and most of them were mad at him. Besides, Ben admires the hard working Charlie. And he fears that the news that the illegal worked for the Village Cemetery Association will destroy the venerable society already torn asunder by suing and counter-suing anti-mausoleum traditionalists and pro-mausoleum insurgents.

Review: Connecticut real estate agent Ben Abbott investigates murder in, of all places, a mausoleum in the aptly titled Mausoleum, the fifth mystery in this series by Justin Scott.

Brian Grose, a California real estate developer, has chosen rural Connecticut to be his home in retirement. One of his first acts as a resident, other than building a monstrous home to live in, is to construct a mausoleum in the local cemetery. When Grose is found shot dead inside his mausoleum, the cemetery association asks Ben to look into the murder to, as they put it, "preserve the integrity of the association." The prime suspect is an illegal alien that had been working on farms in the area, but Ben doesn't understand what motive he might have. As Ben continues his investigation, he discovers that Brian Grose was more active in his business than residents originally thought, and that his plans may have prompted someone to have him permanently retired.

Mausoleum begins with an intriguing opening premise in the form of a locked room mystery: a dead man, shot several times, is found within a sealed structure with no obvious way for a murderer to get in (or out) without being seen. During the course of Ben's investigation, he posits several theories on how one might accomplish this impossible task. But then, somewhat inexplicably, this tantalizing mystery is largely abandoned in favor of a resolution that makes the crime far more mundane. It's a bit of a let down.

(Potential spoiler alert in this paragraph.) The middle half of the book is devoted to Ben pursuing what is essentially a missing persons case. And when said missing person is located, he has nothing to do with the murder. At best, his existence is only peripheral to the solution. It's very disappointing that so much effort was expended for something that is essentially irrelevant to the story.

This is not to say that Mausoleum is not without some merit. Setting aside the endless missing persons investigation and running commentary about Homeland Security, the whodunit aspect of the murder plot is well thought out and executed. Some of the best passages in the book are of Ben's personal life. Aunt Connie is a wonderful character who is given far too little attention; Ben's relationship with her is quite special. Ben's time at home, in preparing a meal with a neighbor for example, is especially charming. And finally, the concluding chapter is both unexpected and memorable.

Despite some of the tangential and inconsequential elements of the book, Mausoleum works well as a murder mystery and in the continued development of Ben Abbott as a character in this series.

Special thanks to Poisoned Pen Press for providing an ARC of Mausoleum for this review.

Review Copyright © 2008 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

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