Book Review: Irish Parade Murder by Leslie Meier
Irish Parade Murder by Leslie Meier is the 27th Lucy Stone Mystery, where a new hotshot reporter in town is accused of murder, and Lucy must dust off her investigating skills once again to clear her new coworker’s name and get to the bottom of the deadly conspiracy.
I have a bit of a confession to make: I hadn’t actually read any Leslie Meier novels before this 27th in her long-running Lucy Stone Mystery series. I had read several of her novellas, and based on the doormat-adjacent behavior Lucy displayed with regard to her family in those, I certainly was not prepared for what I read here. The Lucy Stone of Irish Parade Murder is fun, feisty, and not only feminist but with a streak of crusading journalist zeal that made this book a wholly absorbing read as it boldly—and, in my opinion, extremely successfully—tackles so many sociopolitical topics in the news today.
Lucy and her co-worker Phyllis are worried that they’re about to lose their jobs at The Pennysaver, the weekly newspaper of their small Maine town of Tinker’s Cove. Newspapers all across the country have been shutting down, and with their owner-editor Ted Stillings acting cagey, they’re convinced that he’s about to sell out and move on too. Imagine their surprise when they discover that Ted isn’t only not selling the paper but has bought out the larger Gilead Gabber, based in the neighboring town and county seat, with the assistance of a non-profit that believes that the existence of a strong, independent fourth estate is vital for the functioning of democracy. The only catch is that Ted has to bring in hotshot city reporter Rob Callahan to help modernize their operations.
Lucy is pretty lukewarm about Rob’s arrival, and his lack of skills, which nearly sabotage her own work, makes her even less inclined to help him out. Her daughters are surprisingly supportive, as they discuss with her husband, Bill, over family dinner one evening.
“It’s not a level playing field, Dad,” declared Zoe, “and women lose every time they help some dumb guy climb right over then to get the promotion, or the raise, or the award.”
“Women have got to do what men do, which is play the game to win.”
“But there’s no ‘I’ in team,” offered Bill, rather feebly.
“Building a career is not a team sport,” said Sara. “It’s an individual accomplishment, and Mom has worked hard to make her byline mean something.”
“Yeah, Dad,” said Zoe. “It’s about time Mom got the credit she deserves. She’s worked hard all these years, and she’s an amazing journalist, and she doesn’t need anybody telling her how to do her job.”
Sitting there, listening to her daughters defend her, Lucy was stunned. “Golly, guys, I didn’t know you’d noticed.”
While Rob goes off chasing “hard-hitting” investigative stories—against the advice of the Pennysaver team who urges him to build relationships first and to proceed with delicacy if not caution—Lucy focuses on the meat and potatoes news so important to their readers. With coverage now expanded to include Gilead, she begins to notice how Sheriff John P. Murphy’s influence radiates from the county seat—and not for the better. Even what should be innocuous reporting work, centering mostly on Gilead’s upcoming Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, sees her uncovering details and practices that are questionable at best. When a prison guard dies in a fiery car crash and Rob is abruptly hauled in for the guard’s murder, Lucy has to use all her investigative skills to get to the bottom of things, even as it seems that the odds are stacked against her and the brave crew of the Pennysaver. Unsurprisingly, arraying themselves on the side of democracy in the face of corruption takes its toll.
“I guess I didn’t realize what I was getting into,” said Ted. “It all seemed so noble, tackling abuse and corruption, restoring the democratic values our nation was built on…” He let out a long sigh. “I had no idea it would be so depressing and exhausting, or that the corruption would be so widespread… It seems like the sheriff has the whole county government in his grip.”
“Buck up, bucko,” said Lucy, causing Ted to smile. “We can’t do it all at once; we have to chip away, one story at a time. It doesn’t always have to be a big spotlight investigation; it can simply be an accurate account of the truth, like the paragraph in the school budget story about [the county health department director]’s refusal to apply for state funding. We can leave it at that for now, and see if readers respond.”
“Good idea, Lucy,” said Ted, obviously relieved. “Let’s focus on getting Rob a fair deal.”
As if this wasn’t enough to occupy Lucy, she and her family also have to deal with the aftermath of Bill’s dad’s passing, including the appearance of a woman claiming to be Bill’s half-sister. There’s so much rich, excellent storytelling and commentary here that totally belied my previous (entertaining if slight) experiences with this series. Lucy isn’t perfect, but she’s smart and brave and a great heroine to root for. I’m very much looking forward to digging into the previous books of the series now, as well as eagerly anticipating what comes next!