The April Fools' Day Murder

by Lee Harris

Those of us who are aficionados of the hard-boiled detective novel
forget, to our detriment, that there are other facets of the
mystery genre. The domestic mystery is one of those. These books
tend to center on a single event in an undistinguished setting. The
violence in such books, if any, is kept to a minimum and tends to
take place off of the page. And the primary readers of this genre
tend to be women. While the authors of these books have a loyal and
regular following, they are also what I would call "vacation books"
or books you might pick up because you have nothing to read while
in a city other than your own.

Lee Harris is one of the more prolific authors of these books, with
the "Holiday" books featuring Christine Bennett. Bennett, a
resident of Long Island, is an ex-nun who is happily married to a
cop/attorney and the mother of a three-year-old son. She also
lectures at a nearby university and maintains contacts with her
former convent cohabitants. Bennett is also drawn, and not all that
reluctantly, to amateur detective work. Harris's previous and
latest novels featuring Bennett all concern murders occurring
around a day of celebration or commemoration. The latest is THE
APRIL FOOLS' DAY MURDER, which, while running true to form with its
predecessors, contains enough variation and surprises to please
regular readers of this series as well as to encourage new or
unfamiliar readers to give it a look.

THE APRIL FOOLS' DAY MURDERS begins with Bennett having a mildly
unpleasant though inconsequential supermarket encounter with
Willard Platt, who is definitely in contention for the title of
Town Scold. Her next encounter with Platt, however, is more
significant and far more unpleasant. Bennett finds Platt dead, in
his own front yard, with a knife sticking out of his back. It turns
out, however, that Platt has merely staged his death as an April
Fools' Day stunt for the local high school drama club. It is
accordingly all the more disconcerting when later that day Platt is
discovered dead again, this time for real --- and with the murder
weapon missing. Platt's widow, familiar with Bennett's efforts in
solving a previous murder, asks Bennett for help in finding the
murderer of her husband. Bennett does not lack for suspects. There
is the owner of a local garden nursery, bitter over Platt's refusal
to sell him some real estate. There is Platt's own son, Roger, from
whom he has been bitterly estranged for several years. And there is
Platt's widow, who had motive and opportunity.

Bennett's detection methods consist of gentle but persistent
questioning and lots of thinking. As she slowly begins to uncover
secrets involving Platt's prior marriage --- a marriage he kept
secret from most people --- and the death of Platt's grandchild
several years previously, she becomes more unsure than ever as to
who killed Platt, and why. There is one small, almost minor detail
that ultimately leads her to Platt's killer. But will anyone
believe her?

Harris, with THE APRIL FOOLS' DAY MURDERS as well as previous works
in this series, proves to be quite adept at crafting a deceptively
simple tale of suburban murder and duplicity. Longtime fans of the
series will continue to be quite pleased. Hopefully, Harris will
not exhaust the list of holidays anytime soon.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 20, 2011

The April Fools' Day Murder
by Lee Harris

  • Publication Date: February 27, 2001
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Mass Market Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Fawcett
  • ISBN-10: 0449007014
  • ISBN-13: 9780449007013