Tricia Miles, owner of HaVen't Got a Clue, a bookstore in Stoneham, New Hampshire, with the help of her newly divorced sister, Angelica Prescott, solves the murder of a woman in the bookstore next door to hers, a murder for which she is the main suspect. In Murder is Binding, Tricia [Trish] Miles, owner of the Stoneham, New Hampshire bookstore Haven't Got a Clue, solves the murder of Doris Gleason, the owner of the The Cookery, the bookstore next door to Trish's. Doris is bigger than life. “Everything about her screamed excess—from her bulky frame clad in a bright pink polyester dress, her dyed, jet-black pageboy haircut, to the overlarge glasses that perched on her nose.” In addition to her appearance, Doris is loud, outspoken and, often, offensive. Most people in town dislike her and steer clear of her.
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Trish Miles has only lived in Stoneham for six months. Her life has changed dramatically; she has gone from being the pampered wife of a NYC executive, living near Central Park, to being the divorced, ex-wife of a man who decided he wanted a solitary life in the wilds of Colorado.
Wanting a very different life away from memories, using part of the financial settlement from the divorce, Trish moved to Stoneham, NH and opened her bookstore.
Stoneham, like Trish, has undergone a transformation. It used to be a dying city -- the downtown stores the victims of major chains opening at the outskirts. Then, Bob Kelly, President of the local chamber of commerce and owner of Kelly Realty, got the idea that Stoneham could be a mecca for booklovers. Trish does not like Bob, perhaps, she thinks guiltily, because he could be the twin of her ex-husband, Christopher. According to Trish “Bob's gimmicky idea of basing the village's economy on used bookstores luring in tourists had been inspired by the town of Hay-on-Wye…” in Wales, which had perked up after they did the same thing. Stoneham had also recovered, and Bob was the town hero.
Trish decides to open Haven't Got a Clue because she's loved murder mysteries all her life. Her grandmother read them to her when she was a very young child. She designed the front of her shop at 221 Main Street to resemble Sherlock Holmes's house at 221B Baker Street.
There are three living fixtures at Haven't Got a Clue in addition to Trish: Ginny Wilson, Tricia's only employee, “a lithe, twenty something redhead…” who is engaged to be married and who is very loyal to Trish; Miss Marple, “…the store's resident cat, a regal, gray domestic longhair…” who is both very loving and entirely spoiled [she yowls for her dinner and sits near the store's security system, disabling it]; and Mr. Everett who is “…one of the shop's regular patrons…a silver-haired elderly gent …” He shows up every morning when the shop opens and is often chased out at night. He never buys anything, but ultimately, will be very helpful to Trish.
It's a Tuesday. A few unexpected things happen.
First, the door opens and a “…handsome, middle-aged man with a full head of sandy hair and dressed in the dark business suit…” comes in. He says he is Mike Harris, the candidate for selectman, who is introducing himself to all the shopkeepers on Main Street. He is a history buff, especially WW II history, and frequents History Repeats Itself, the Stoneham bookstore that caters to his tastes.
Second, Trish receives a phone call from her sister, Angelica Prescott. Angelica is coming into town, staying at the Brookview Inn, and wants to take Trish to dinner there. Trish, reluctantly, agrees.
Trish and Angelica, who is five years older than Trish, have never been close. Their parents wanted their first child and showered all the love and attention on Angelica that any child could want. Then, unexpectedly, Trish came along. They were not ready for her and didn't want her. Angelica, who had been used to being the only princess in the family, was upset. Trish sensed, as children do, the irritation in both her parents and her sister. Also, as adults, it seems as if her values are very different from those of her sister's. Nevertheless, she agrees to meet Angelica for dinner.
The Brookview Inn “…was Stoneham's finest showplace, boasting a French chef, spa facilities, and catering to a very exclusive clientele.” When Trish arrives in the dining room she is annoyed to see that there are two people at the table: Angelica and Bob Kelly. “Two of the three people on the planet who irritated Tricia the most, and now she had to deal with both of them – together.” After dinner, Bob explains that he has to leave because he has a business meeting. Trish knows [because Doris Gleason told her] that he's supposed to meet Doris at the Cookery to discuss her new lease, and that he is already late.
Angelica and Trish finish their dinner. Angelica wants to see Trish's shop, so they drive to 221 Main Street. As they arrive, Angelica smells something burning and sees that the smoke is coming from the mail slot next door, from the Cookery. The door to The Cookery is unlocked.
Then, the third unexpected thing happens. Trish finds
Doris Gleason lying dead on the floor with a carving knife in her back. A very valuable, vintage cookbook, that had been in a display case, is missing.
Sheriff Wendy Adams, who is up for re-election [so she is upset there is a murder], is called. “The sheriff's uniform shirt buttons strained against her ample cleavage, her large hips accentuated by the cut of her standard-issue slacks.” But, most disturbing, is her attitude. She decides, immediately, that Trish is the prime suspect.
Russ Smith, editor of the Stoneham Weekly News, picks up Wendy's suspicions and writes a scathing article, all but accusing Trish.
Then, Winnie Wentworth, the village eccentric who spends her life buying things at garage sales, dies in a suspicious auto accident the same day she sells a solid gold pin to Trish. Only Trish takes Winnie's death seriously.
How will this end? Will Trish go to jail?
Actually, no. The woman killed in The Cookery was not Doris Gleason but her twin sister Deirdre. Doris and Mike Harris killed Deidre for her money. Doris needed money for her shop [which was doing badly] and Mike needed to pay his gambling debts and support his extravagant life style. In addition to helping to kill Deidre, he poisoned his mother, placing her in a dementia-like state. While she was in a nursing home he sold many of her valuables [including the pin Trish bought from Wendy and the valuable cookbook – he stole it after killing Deidre] and was ready to sell his mother's house.
Best part of story, including ending:
I like this story because it is a good read, is well written and engrossing, is quite suspenseful, and because I care about the characters.
Best scene in story:
In my favorite scene, at the end, there is a party in The Cookery celebrating Trish's discovery of the murderer, Mrs. Harris's recovery, and Angelica's new venture – buying and managing the Cookery.
Opinion about the main character:
I like Tricia Miles because she has a great love for books, is dedicated to her job as a bookstore owner, is very knowledgeable about her subject [mystery books], and has designed a spectacular store. I dislike the fact that she is sometimes not very tactful, and gets herself into trouble because of her improper remarks.