Cruel Winter by Sheila Connolly is the sixth book in A County Cork Mystery series. Maura Donovan owns Sullivan's Pub in Leap, Ireland. Maura inherited the pub from Old Mick Sullivan nine months ago, after the death of her grandmother. This is Maura's first winter is Ireland and she is unprepared (she had originally only planned to spend a week in Ireland). Maura heads to Sullivan's to check in with Mick Nolan, her bartender. A big snow storm is expected to come through that night and Maura is unsure what to do to prepare for it (she is from Boston where they have big snowstorms frequently). It turns out that other people do not want to stay home alone during the storm and decide to visit the pub. One of pub's patrons turns out to be Diane Wolfe Caldwell. Diane was questioned in the murder of her neighbor, Sharon Morgan twenty years ago. In the court of public opinion, Diane was found guilty. The murder is still unsolved. Maura decides that this is the perfect opportunity to hear Diane's story and get some answers (Maura wants to prove that Diane did not commit the crime).
Cruel Winter is nicely written and can be read alone (the author provides the necessary background information on Maura and how she ended up in Ireland). I did, though, find the pace of the novel to be extremely slow. The story takes place over the course of one day (a very long, drawn out day). I give Cruel Winter 3 out of 5 stars. The mystery is one that plays out over the course of the novel. Most readers will be able to figure out the whodunit before the reveal. I did find some elements of the story to be unrealistic. Maura knew winter was coming, but she has no winter clothes (wouldn't you purchase some clothes if you did not bring them with you). Maura has been responsible for the pub for nine months, but she has no clue how it is run. I found it odd that after living in Boston, Maura has no idea on how to prepare for a storm (making sure you have fuel, food, batteries, blankets, water). There is some information that is repeated throughout the novel (how Maura only planned to stay in Ireland one week and facts about the murder). For some reason, Maura felt it necessary to keep recapping the facts presented about the murder. I found Cruel Winter to be atypical for Sheila Connolly. I have read her other cozy mysteries and enjoyed them. In future books of A County Cork Mystery series I would like to see Maura start to grow up and take responsibility. In Cruel Winter, we do get to catch up with Jimmy, Rose, Mick, Gillian, Harry, Sean, Eveline, and Old Billy.