cover image Murder Under Blue Skies

Murder Under Blue Skies

Bill Crider, Willard Scott. Dutton Books, $23.95 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-525-94324-2

Scott, the popular weatherman of NBC's Today show, doesn't stretch his imagination too far to create the protagonist of this cozy series kickoff. His amateur sleuth is easygoing, balding Stanley Waters, retired national ""weathermeister,"" ""the man who didn't know how to frown."" Stan, settling in rural Virginia to open a bed and breakfast, is appalled when one of the guests drops dead in a bowl of salsa at his inn's nationally televised grand opening. Stanley, a widower, is pleased, however, to find that his old high-school flame, now the town's police chief, will handle the case, and he's flattered when she asks for his help. As he chats with people in the small town, the garrulous Stanley finds out that the unpleasant victim, a woman, had been engaged many times but had never tied the knot. Stanley homes in on the various men of the region but realizes he may be getting too close to the killer when he finds himself trapped and nearly asphyxiated in the old smokehouse on his property. But he pursues his queries, passing along his tips while wooing the chief. Scattered throughout the book are down-home weather bromides (""A ring around the moon means that rain will follow soon""), which add to the book's folksy appeal. The hand of Crider (Murder Takes a Break, etc.) is evident in the hometown atmosphere that surrounds Stanley and makes this slow-paced jaunt read like a story told from a front-porch rocker. Mystery Guild selection. (Jan.)