Mapping Murder (2017, Islandport Press) is book #3 in the Julie Williamson Mystery series. The previous titles were Stealing History and Breaking Ground. All three books revolve around Julie Williamson the young, new director of the Ryland Historic Society in the fictional western Maine town of Ryland.
The storyline for this instalment revolves around several thefts of precious artefacts from other Maine historical societies, and not necessarily the most valuable items in their respective collections either. At a meeting of the Maine Historical Society Network, several directors approach Julie for assistance in solving the thefts. Soon, one of the directors is found dead, the result of a hunting accident, so it would appear, but Julie has her doubts. Teaming up with the former Ryland Chief of Police (and now Lieutenant Detective with the State Police) Mike Barlow, they set out to discover if the thefts and the hunting death are linked in some way. Against this suspenseful backdrop is the ongoing weekend romance of Julie and Rich (who lives and works as a History professor in Orono) and their impending nuptials. They are still wrestling with what the future will bring: will one have to give up their present situation to move to where the other has a job? If so, which one?
The previous two titles in the series were great reading, for they are “cozy mysteries” that is, mysteries without any (or minimal) references to sex and do not employ profanity to any great extent. All the sex here (between Julie and Rich) is behind closed doors and there is no profanity. Having read all three books I would say that Mapping Murder is the best yet, for it not only extends beyond the borders of small-town Ryland to other places in Maine, but it involves multiple thefts and several suspects, so you are kept guessing to the end. It also expands on the emotional turmoil that Julie and Rich face in their long distance romance (they only see each other on weekends, either in Ryland or Orono) and we can see that crunch time for a life-changing decision (who will eventually have to sacrifice their present occupation) is imminent as the wedding date approaches. My only quibble is that the characters of either Rich or Julie are not well actualized: I still don’t have a visual on what either Julie or Rich looks like, how they dress or any identifying characteristics, other than Julie likes to do jigsaw puzzles and Rich is a good cook. There is also a lack of reliance on technology like smart phones and texting, which you would expect from two people in love, separated by distance.
Nevertheless, I would certainly recommend the Julie Williamson Mysteries from Islandport Press to any lover of cozy mysteries. While it is helpful to have read the previous books in the series, Mr Andrews provides enough backstory so that it is not completely necessary to be familiar with them. I especially like them for the fact that they take place in a small town well outside of any metropolitan area. They make for a great read, and as a bonus, they are insightful as to how historical societies are run and the problems small museums face. A good 4-star cozy mystery.