Book Review: The Courtroom Coroner, Paul Austin Ardoin

Book Review: The Courtroom Coroner, Fenway Stevenson Book 5, Paul Austin Ardoin


The Courtroom Coroner, Fenway Stevenson Book 5, Paul Austin Ardoin

Mystery: The Courtroom Coroner, Fenway Stevenson Book 5, Paul Austin Ardoin


Having established a format in books 1-4, we know how a Fenway Stevenson novel will go. She will spend several days investigating the crimes with her colleagues in the sheriff’s office, traveling around the county as needed to examine bodies and evidence and sometimes tackling the bad guys herself.


So Paul Austin Ardoin does what any writer might do. He completely blows up this formula and goes in a new direction. Essentially, a locked room mystery.


Fenway Stevenson is in court for two reasons. The killer she found in the last book is being arraigned for murder. Immediately after, her father is being arraigned, also for murder. Gathered in the court are a number of people there to see one or both cases move forward. The first hearing goes according to script. The accused enters a plea of not-guilty, the judge bangs the gavel and calls for a fifteen minute recess so those only interested in that first hearing can leave and make room for those who want to watch the second one.


Then shots ring out. A man lies dead at the front of the courtroom. The building’s security system locks all of the doors, although a few people had already left the courtroom when the shots fired. And Fenway is trapped in the courtroom with the body and several people, many of whom had reason to want the man dead. There was his wife…and his mistress. Others had associations with the dead man that become clear as the plot progresses. And as time proceeds, one thing becomes more and more obvious.


The killer is still in the room.


In previous books, Fenway had access to the resources and personnel of the sheriff’s office. She has little of that now. There is an assistant district attorney who seems to viscerally dislike her despite their supposedly being on the same team. There is her friend Piper, a computer expert recently fired from the sheriff’s office for an error in judgment while investigating a previous crime. She has a few supplies in her purse: a fingerprint kit, some gloves, some evidence bags. Other than that, she has only her wits to rely upon.


Oh, and her father, with whom she is barely on speaking terms.


The time frame is also compressed, covering the span of a single morning instead of weeks or days. The pressure is on Fenway to solve the murder before the doors open and the killer can escape–or before the killer decides that she or he has no choice but to kill again.


This series continues to be a delight. This book reveals new details about Fenway, her father, her late mother, and other characters who have been with us from the beginning. Again, Ardoin gives bonuses to those who have read the rest of the series but also provides a solid story for those who have jumped in later.


Frankly, though, I don’t recommend starting in the middle of this series. It is absolutely worth going to the beginning and reading all of the books. You will be glad you did. Any author who works this hard to create an arc spanning this many novels deserves to have that work acknowledged and appreciated in the way they were intended.


The Courtroom Coroner, Fenway Stevenson Book 5, Paul Austin Ardoin

Book Review: The Courtroom Coroner, Fenway Stevenson Book 5, Paul Austin Ardoin

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