What is this about?: Frankie has returned home to Stillwater to help her sister with a pregnancy that has turned difficult, but she can’t turn her back on a gentleman having a heart attack out the front of Stillwater General, on a night of chaos when all hands are on deck inside taking care of the victims of a bus crash. But Clem dies, and Frankie – who isn’t supposed to be treating anyone outside of her home hospital in Chicago where she works – finds herself in danger of losing her nursing license.
What else is this about: Family and coming home.
It’s been twelve years since ER nurse Frankie Stapleton fled the quiet banks of Stillwater, but with her sister’s pregnancy taking a dangerous turn and a string of failed relationships in Chicago hanging over her, Frankie is back–and hoping to put the past behind her. Within minutes of arriving at Stillwater General Hospital however, she ends up saving a man’s life, only to have him turn up dead hours later – and the hospital blames Frankie.
Her instincts say Clem Jensen didn’t die of natural causes, but the more she digs, the more she discovers too many suspects, a few surprising allies, and some hard truths about the first man she ever loved–and left. Now the boy she once knew is a skeptical sheriff’s deputy, her family’s hardware store is in jeopardy, and the rift between Frankie and her loved ones is deeper than ever.
With her career–and future–on life support, Frankie must catch a killer, clear her name, and heal the wounds of the past in Lucy Kerr’s enthralling mystery debut, Time of Death.
I’ve been trying to define cozy mysteries to myself for awhile, and it’s only after reading this that I’ve realised above all else, there’s a comfort to them — whether it’s in the characters, the setting — or maybe I’m just weird? What defines a cozy for you?
In the case of Time of Death however, I didn’t completely know what was coming in the way it counts the most – why did Clem die.
Frankie essentially ran away from home after high school to nursing school due to the death of her father and the responsibility that comes with being part of a family that has had a store in the town for about 100 years. It’s called Stapleton and Sons, so you can well imagine the responsibility of keeping a small-town store going.
She’s worked all over, and when the book opens, her engagement to an accomplished surgeon in Chicago has come to an end – her third one. While getting married and having kids is something her mother would like her to do, she’d more than anything like her to stay engaged to get to the “married” part. It’s a reason Frankie wants to avoid going home for the foreseeable future, but her sister Charlie calls frantic because something is going wrong with her pregnancy and she’d like Frankie to come home and translate the doctor speak for her.
Seven hours later Frankie does exactly that and finds herself in danger of losing her nursing licence as I mentioned above. Turns out you’re not supposed to treat patients in different hospitals unless you have permission to do so, and on her way to see Charlie, Frankie definitely didn’t have that when she saw Clem outside the hospital. It’s chaos on that night as the hospital has people coming in from a bus crash. So she helps, Clem dies and she gets hauled up in front of the hospital higher-ups who need someone else to blame – someone that isn’t their hospital that’s for sale.
Frankie became a nurse due to her father’s death and watching the nurses then take care of him, and comfort him. She wanted to be able to do that, but as the eldest she was expected to take over their hardware store – it’s a store that has existed for a century or so in the small town of Stillwater. Instead, she went to nursing school and the responsibility fell to Charlie, her younger sister – who had been doing her best. Charlie gives birth shortly after she arrives, and Rowan, her new daughter has to stay in hospital for a while, so Frankie stays around.
Which means she’s moves into her old house, where she shares a bedroom with a precocious 8-year-old, Riley, Charlie’s eldest. And has to keep dealing with her mother – and it quickly becomes apparent, Frankie has seriously underestimated her mother’s business sense.
Her family is warm – it’s like the comfort of a blanket, where you know just how to wrap it around you to keep warm, so I kinda knew what was coming with them in some ways, especially in regards to her broken engagement, and Noah, her FIRST broken engagement who is still unattached an a cop and severely irritated at Frankie investigating Clem’s death to clear her name.
There’s also a relatable family dynamic – Charlie resents Frankie running away, even as she enjoys what she’s been able to do with the store. She is a planner, and accuses Frankie of being an adrenaline junkie, which she has been, but as the story progresses, Frankie has to admit to herself that she’s not missing Chicago as much as she thought.
I know this is a mystery, but I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much without these two women in Frankie’s life – three if you count Riley.
Who killed Clem?
This I enjoyed too, as I did the red herrings thrown my way. Frankie needs to be able to prove she didn’t do anything to cause Clem to die, and as a result begins to develop a friendship with his daughter in order to find out if he was on medication. The drugs and medical lingo are there, but it’s all explained and it’s never an info dump, but a natural part of the story.
As Frankie’s investigation progresses, we learn about the hospital, the doctors there and Frankie’s allies – as she searches out post-mortem and test results for Clem. Soon enough, she has a prime suspect, which has her following the individual, sure he’s guilty, but it’s not that simple.
That’s what I liked about the mystery – things made perfect sense, until you began to realise, nope, hold on there’s something more here – just as Frankie did too. There’s a power to a realisation that isn’t an AH-HA moment, it just depends on the execution.
Given this is part of the Stillwater General series, I knew what sort of ending to expect for Frankie, but I can’t say I wasn’t satisfied!