52 Steps to Murder — Deadly Mystery at Hilltop Place

52 Steps to Murder. Steve Demaree, author. Mystery story

An unusual neighborhood — Hilltop Place has all of the fine older homes built WELL above street level. Not an easy place for murder!

Mrs. Nelson, very elderly, is found murdered in her home. Though she has no enemies and all family, neighbors, mailman, and attorney have solid alibies, there is no question…the old lady is DEAD by poison!

As ‘heroes’,  Lieutenant Cy Dekker and Sergeant Lou Murdock, follow the clues into corners, I come to like them.  An easy first impression is of two over-weight detectives who are going to bumble their way through the story.  While each has his idiosyncrasies which could border on OCD, they are in no way bumblers. The detectives and CSI team exchange wit that brings a reader’s smile. Nicely written and not insult to readers.  Watch Hershey chocolate-almond bars and the M&Ms.

They ‘suffer’ truly COUNTLESS trips up and down the 52 step entrances of each house on the street while they interview neighbors. The trips UP the 52 steps are always slower while the trips DOWN court disaster. But, there is no other way to access each home from the street. 

It’s Murder Day in the Neighborhood

Several of those neighbors take the practice of ‘Neighborhood Watch’ to the extreme.  Each has plenty of observation to share which may not always be precisely correct.

graphic featuring 52 steps to murder

When some of the neighborhood mysteries are revealed, the detectives also find another neighbor is missing.  Mrs. Jarvis is confined to a wheelchair which they have, but no Mrs. Jarvis.   When she is found, she has also been poisoned. 

Next, with good reason, they wonder about the death and peculiar burial of Mrs. Silverman, whose peculiar son, Stanley, is one of the neighborhood ‘observers’.

And, where have Mrs. Reynolds and her son gone? More murder?  Mrs. Reynolds is a very defensive mother whose son is experiencing severe PTSD.  The other residents on the street are not compassionate or patient with his condition. Dekker and Murdock figure out how to let the young man help with dignity.

There are many opportunities for the CSI crews to come out to the street, checking on the things that Cy and Lou discover. 

Cy figures it out! He uses times of solitude to ponder the various ‘word of the day’ topics. He receives his own ‘word of the day’ which is a surprise to him. The guilty are manipulative and crafty to the very end, keeping readers guessing as to ‘who done it.’ But in the end, there is no doubt that murder was ‘done’ and with cold calculation!

Two of the Good Guys

Their simple faith is inspiring.  There is no clumsy doctrine or excessive ranting. They have an amazing and warm relationship with God first and church as they can. Each morning’s devotion brings Lou Murdock the WORD or PHRASE of the day.  That word or phrase will be the operating factor in the day’s investigations.  Always, as the case moves on, the clues work out to fit that devotional message.  Dekker is a widower who seeks no replacement for his late wife.  Murdock is a dedicated bachelor who truly enjoys jigsaw puzzles and other hobbies. 

They each have a lady friend who are friends, so the four people can enjoy a dinner out now and then. Or go as couples. The story is told from Cy’s point of view. Readers learn that he’s not interested in another woman, but still in love with his late wife. For a slapstick touch, there is an obnoxious and forward neighbor woman who would like to take up company with Cy.

Cy and Lou along with their work associates keep up a snarky repartee, giving AND taking teasing.  Their dry humor is part of the attraction of this book.

Cardinal Bluff Standards and Signs

The pleasant absence of obscenity and vulgarity makes this book a five star favorite at Cardinal Bluff.  There are several books in a COZY MYSTERY series, but no boxed sets. According to author, Steve DeMaree’s  Amazon page and Facebook Page, there are 26 books in his repertoire.  I enjoyed this one enough that I’m making a discipline decision to not ‘binge read’ all of them.  It is too easy to begin to second guess a story or take things for granted, spoiling the fun. As with former Cozy Mystery series, there is humor and unusual solutions. I find that Steve DeMaree writes at a reading level higher than some other authors. I will be back to read and review some more of these stories in the future.

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