cover image Death by Thunder

Death by Thunder

Gretchen Sprague, . . St. Martin's Minotaur/Dunne, $24.95 (281pp) ISBN 978-0-312-34767-3

In the first of what was to be a new cozy series from Sprague (Maquette for Murder ), who died shortly after completing the book, Janet Upton, a recent divorcée who has returned to her upstate New York hometown to run an art gallery, is shocked by the death of her uncle Bud, in part because she witnesses his fatal fall from a rocky crag. She's even more surprised to discover that her late, abrasive uncle willed to her a plot of land subject to a sales agreement from which she stands to benefit richly. Uncle Bud's "accidental" death echoes that of another landowner eight years earlier, a woman whose death prompted an investigation of Janet's more beloved uncle Paul. Janet is gradually pulled into a mystery that centers on the property she's inherited, for which she feels a responsibility as its steward. Her ecologically principled curiosity places her in ever-growing danger, while the determined killer, perhaps an obvious suspect to the reader, eludes her amateur sleuthing until the moment of confrontation. An unlikely murder scheme (collapsing a bridge to kill someone?) lends interest to a predictable plot. (Nov.)