Ruth Clagan’s grandfather, a clockmaker, dies during a robbery in “Just Killing Time” and leaves his Massachusetts clock shop, the Cog & Sprocket, to her. A rift between them caused by her ex has kept her away from the Berkshires for five years and now she has been robbed of a chance to reconnect. Why would anyone do this to a lifelong member of the community?
To complicate matters, the business is a puzzle, the shop is a mess and Ruth must deal with the oddly massive inventory as well as her grandfather’s widow. It makes sense to sell the Cog & Sprocket and get on with her life, but does Ruth really want to? Why did her grandfather have so much inventory? Could it be the reason he was killed?
“Just Killing Time” is complete with small town politics, reunions with old friends, and beautifully written dialogue that makes you feel as if you could join the conversation and fit right in. The wonderfully diverse cast of characters made me yearn for the days of small towns and friendly neighborhoods, where everybody knows your name. There is a real connection to the past with Orchard’s grandfather clocks and clock towers and small businesses on Main Street. Ahhh… life as it used to be outside the metropolitan areas of the country, before big box stores and fast food joints.
I connected immediately with Ruth, a fellow coffee addict. 😉 Julianne Holmes’ richly drawn Clagan clicks as a character trying to begin again, sorting through her life’s complications, but adapting as she sees alternate paths to follow. How many of us are given the opportunity to go back home to something familiar when life has taken an unexpected turn? And this clockmaker is always late? A giggle of a quirk.
We learn a great deal about the fascinating world of clocks – how they function and what makes the business model succeed in a time where digital seems to rule our lives. Grandfather’s repair specialty was clock towers, which require a tremendous amount of skill to maintain. Coincidentally, I saw a TV show about Big Ben (the clock tower in London) at the time I had started reading “Just Killing Time.” There’s more to its operation than climbing the steps to wind the clock or replace the parts. Wind can catch at the hands, pulling at them and slowing down the time. Minute changes in the atmosphere can affect the clock time. When I picked up “Just Killing Time” again, I found that it wove technical information in with the clever plot, giving us a clear understanding of why the Clagans love the business they’re in.
The layered storyline in this Agatha nominated debut novel involves possible fraud, people with hidden agendas, a tug-of-war between those that want a more modern town and those who wish to create an historic district. Happily, there is the potential for a little romance with a suitably hunky barber. “Just Killing Time” also includes some deviously nasty characters who will do anything to get what they want, including murder.
The second book in the series, “Clock and Dagger,” has recently been released and you should make time to read both.
Please visit www.jahennrikus.com for more information about Julianne Holmes and her alter ego, J.A. Hennrikus.