Friday, July 13, 2018

Book Review: The Death of an Ambitious Woman by Barbara Ross (Chief Ruth Murphy Mysteries #1)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong mystery, interesting main characters
Cons: Supporting characters a little on the weak side
The Bottom Line:
This car crash was no
Accident.  Complicated
Case well worth reading

It Definitely Wasn’t an Accident

When I started reading Barbara Ross, I started with her Maine Clambake Mysteries, always intending to go back and some point and read The Death of an Ambitious Woman, her first mystery.  It’s taken longer than I intended, but I enjoyed it as much as I thought I would.

Unlike her series, this book is set in a small town in Massachusetts and focuses on interim Police Chief Ruth Murphy.  As the book opens, she’s been acting as the police chief for several months, and it is looking likely that she is about to officially get the promotion.

However, things in town are about to heat up with a car crash.  Tracey Kendall is discovered after she crashes into a wall along a road on the outskirts of town.  She was driving very fast, and the lack of skid marks make it obvious she didn’t try to stop at all.  Things get more interesting when the mechanic who serviced her car disappears.  The more Ruth and her detectives investigate, the more pressure she faces to drop the case.  Will pursuing the truth cost her the promotion?  What really happened?

I went into this book expecting an excellent mystery, and I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest.  There were plenty of complications both in the form of red herrings and in the form of local politics.  Yes, Ruth has made some enemies over the years, and those bad relationships also come into play as she searches for the truth.  Not that Ruth lets that stop her.  The climax is ultimately satisfying and wraps things up perfectly.

We get to know Ruth and a few members of her staff very well.  The key players in the mystery are also strong characters.  There are a number of smaller players that I must admit I had a hard time keeping straight, but when they show up again, we were given enough context to remember who they are and how they relate to the mystery.

The book does have a few four-letter words scattered throughout, and we get a few descriptions of violence that are slightly more detailed than you would find in a typical cozy.  Even though this is flirting with the edges of the cozy/traditional/soft boiled subgenres, I’m sure that most fans of Barbara’s work will still really enjoy it.

For now, this book is a standalone.  However, I think there are more stories to tell with Ruth, and if Barbara Ross ever did go back to the character, I’d definitely want to read more.

I’m glad to have finally reading The Death of an Ambitious Woman.  Any fan of well written mysteries will be glad to have picked up this excellent debut mystery.

This review is part of this week's Friday's Forgotten Books.


  1. I also loved this book when I read it after it first came out. Barb is a master storyteller, then and now!

  2. I had to go to the state library to find this one and put it on my list. It sounded good enough to do that. It also came in large print!

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would love to read more books with Chief Ruth as the main character. It was definitely less cozy than her Maine Clambake series but I think all Barbara Ross readers would enjoy it.