"All the best stories in the world are but one story in reality -- the story of escape. It is the only thing which interests us all and at all times, how to escape."
--Author Christopher Benson



Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Murder at the PTA by Laura Alden (ARC)

A PTA Mystery
Obsidian Publishing
First in a New Series
Release Date October 5, 2010

Set in the small town of Rynwood, Wisconsin, about 5 miles from Madison, Beth Kennedy, divorced mother of two, runs a bookstore called Children's Bookshelf.  You would think her days would be  pretty full running her business and raising her children, but her best friend Marina thinks Beth needs to get out more, so she talks her into becoming secretary of the local PTA (Parent-Teacher Association).  To increase membership grandparents and others in the community are involved and regularly attend meetings.

The first meeting Beth attends has an audience of about 20 members.  As the meeting starts the president of the PTA introduces Beth and then asks the committee to rearrange the agenda.  The committee agrees and the president recognizes the Principal of Tarver Elementary, Agnes Mephisto, who wants to make an "outstanding" announcement.  Unfortunately in the ten years Agnes has been principal she has alienated almost every parent in town, so everyone is very leery about her announcement.  After being prodded to get to the point, Agnes announces the an anonymous benefactor has agreed to fund a new addition and several renovations to the school, and because it is completely funded, she has already hired an architect and no one but her will have any input into the design.  The room exploded with parents in opposition.  Beth had no idea how to take minutes of what had turned into a "free-for-all".

A special PTA meeting was set up for the following week and Agnes presents a Powerpoint presentation that  finished with a picture of the ugliest building anyone had even seen. The next day the phone at Beth's home and the bookstore rang off the hook with everyone wanting details from the meeting.  The whole town was in uproar.  How could she do this without tax payers approval?

Within hours the playground at the school had poles and markings by surveyors, parents are notified and angrily arrive at the site and remove the poles and throw them in a pile. Beth hurries home to try to type of the minutes of the special meeting, as she is falling asleep at her computer she decides to check her email one last time and go to bed.  She is shocked to see a message from her friend Marina, CALL ME!! URGENT!!  She remembers she had unplugged the phone because of the parent's calls.  She plugs it back in and calls Marina.  "She's dead." Marina tells her.  Agnes is dead and "she was murdered."

In the background of the whole project a new blog, WisconSINS, has been launched. The blogger has started publishing town gossip, and its posts just seem to keep riling up the citizens of Rynwood over this issue and others.  Many theories are posted and speculations runs wild.  Who killed the most disliked principal in history? There are too many suspects to count.  Beth and Marina team up to try to find the killer before anyone else gets a murderous education.

I love it when murder mysteries take place in my backyard.  This fictional town is just minutes from my real life school district.  Every parent can relate to the characters in this book.  We all want our children to receive the best education possible, but we are also concerned about our tax dollars too. 

This whole story, less the murder, I hope, could have taken place right here in my little community or yours.  It is rare to have a principal, superintendent, or school board everyone likes, and like the story, our community is very involved in the school, the community is the school.  Businesses donate computers and sports equipment, parents are involved in everything from tutoring, coaching, teaching, and volunteering anywhere needed.  My community would be up in arms too if a principal proposed what this principal did, but thankfully it wouldn't escalate to murder.  

But that is why everyone will love this book, it takes reality that one step too far. There is also a little romance, humor and surprises that while not reported in the meeting minutes will make you smile, especially as the first goal is scored.  This is a truly wonderful debut to a series I can't wait to see continue.  We have both a new principal and superintendent this year and I hope and pray they don't take after Agnes.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Janet said...

Sounds as if you have a great community with lots of local business and parental support for the schools! It makes such a difference, doesn't it? "The community is the school." Great comment! And thanks for reviewing the book :)

Julie P said...

Thanks for sharing, Lori! I love a good cozy mystery.....