Review: Down the Aisle with Murder by Auralee Wallace

Down the Aisle with Murder

Auralee Wallace

Otter Lake Mystery Series

May 1, 2018

Down the Aisle with Murder by Auralee Wallace is the fifth book in the Otter Lake Mystery series.

“Some wedding stories are so bizarre that you can’t even make them up.” What a perfect summation of Down the Aisle with Murder. Auralee Wallace deftly juggles many interrelated storylines that circle back to Erica Bloom and Freddie and Rhonda, her two business partners and best friends. The trio is trying to get their fledgling company, Otter Lake Security, off the ground.

Candace, who once dated Sheriff Grady Forrester (the off-and-on love of Erica Bloom’s life), is getting married to ex-con Joey. The story opens with a rollicking description of what happens when a wild and wooly bachelorette party takes over the Dawg, “the only bar slash restaurant in Otter Lake, ‘Live Free or Die’ New Hampshire.” Lyssa, the bride’s BFF/wedding planner/Maid of Honor, whoops it up on the mechanical bull, to the bemusement of the town folks who come for a beer and stay to gawk. Unfortunately, Lyssa is nowhere to be found on the wedding day—until she’s found dead. The wedding is postponed, and Freddy promises Candace they’ll solve the crime and put on a new wedding—at no cost! This surprises Erica since he, “had insisted pro bono is a no-no be our number one rule at Otter Lake Security.”

The core of Down the Aisle with Murder is a humorous, occasionally uncomfortable look at three 30-somethings—Erica, Freddy, and Rhonda—and their relationship growing pains. Erica labels what she’s going through with Freddy as a “friend divorce.” It’s nothing minor. There are other complexities too—like renegotiating mother/daughter patterns (Erica), making room for love without losing friendships (all three), and figuring out how to be private detectives without antagonizing the local constabulary—all against the backdrop of an idyllic lake community. Albeit one that experiences more than its share of murder.

Every series has long-standing gags and unresolved complexities, but Down the Aisle with Murder, the 5th in the Otter Lake Mystery series, confronts life head-on. Life isn’t static, and watching Erica and her pals try to live through the uncomfortableness of shedding old roles adds unexpected depth to a light-hearted tale of murder.

Let’s get specific about the chaos bleeding into Erica’s investigation. Erica lives with her mother, who runs a retreat center.

My mother had a best-selling author slash guru coming this week, and she was kind of nervous about it.

The retreat is sold out, and if it is a success, she “might be able to attract even more big names in the self-help field.” Erica takes the theme of the retreat personally—how could she not? The title of Zaki’s book (a guru with a “certain charisma”) is Why Are You Still Single?. She can’t confide in Freddy, her BFF since high school, because he’s despondent when he isn’t acting crazy. Why would he offer to take over Candace’s wedding? Where’s Freddy’s boyfriend?

Murder equals off-kilter in Erica’s life. No one disturbs her equilibrium more than Sheriff Grady Forrester. She expected she’d work alongside him because of the murder, but no. He’s taking a vacation. His substitute is an unforgettable dame of a certain age, Sheriff Bigly. She pulls no punches when putting Otter Lake Security on notice to stay away, far away, from her investigation. Erica protests, “Otter Lake is a special kind of place.” Bigly’s not buying it.

“Ms. Bloom, I’m not playing. You take one step over the line,” she said, pointing at the dirt. I took a quick look down. There wasn’t a line but part of me wouldn’t have been surprised if there was. The dirt might have done it to itself out of fear. “I will take you down. You’ve already ruined one sheriff’s reputation. I won’t let you near mine.”

If only, Erica thinks (disingenuously), Grady was out of town—instead, he’s enjoying a staycation, and she runs into him constantly. “Runs into him?” Hmmm, stalks him in a bumbling, adorable way. Like peeking through his window. What’s up with that?

“Fine, I was, but it was a total accident. I saw you knitting naked, well, not naked, and totally by accident, and I thought, Oh, I wonder if Grady is okay?” I said, nodding. “Because not a lot of sheriffs knit. Naked or otherwise.”

Nothing. Just the stare-down.

An apt metaphor for Down the Aisle with Murder is the fusillade of golf balls that Erica copes with when she tries to interrogate Tommy Forrester. Truthfully, so many balls are in the air being whipped at Erica, that it’s difficult to envision a satisfactory ending—one that brings closure both to the murder and her personal tribulations. In the end, though, it’s a pleasure to congratulate Auralee Wallace for how cleverly she wraps up this “bizarre” wedding story.

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