Connie May Fowler is the kind of writer best read while wearing a cozy robe and fuzzy slippers. Her books celebrate human connection, the circle of life...

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“The Problem with Murmur Lee”

by Connie May Fowler

Doubleday, 209 pp., $21.95

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Connie May Fowler is the kind of writer best read while wearing a cozy robe and fuzzy slippers. Her books celebrate human connection, the circle of life and the need to be true to one’s self while not forgetting the value of others.

All these elements are contained in her latest novel, “The Problem with Murmur Lee.” Murmur Lee Harp, the central character, is a practically perfect person except for one thing: her inability to choose good men.

Or so it seems at first, in a book that combines the elements of a mystery with a novel about relationships and ends up on the path to eternity.

The story opens by introducing Murmur Lee, a 35-year-old free spirit who runs a bar in that gun-toting, trailer-living part of North Florida where bulldozers have yet to uproot backwoods culture. But no sooner have we met her than she is gone, drowning on what was supposed to be a romantic New Year’s Eve.

Was it an accident or foul play, or even suicide? That is the question, but it feels like a plot device rather than the central issue. This is a book that focuses on Murmur the person, not Murmur the victim. In a story narrated by both the title character and her grieving friends, Murmur revisits her troubled life and her legacy.

Murmur’s death comes down hard on her eccentric band of buddies — a Marine who has had a sex-change operation, a grieving doctor, a Harvard dropout and a yoga teacher with a bad attitude. In the wake of her death, their grief blends with doubts about what happened and who’s to blame. They know some things, but not enough, about the woman whose earthy presence had meant so much in their lives.

In the end, Fowler tells a story that’s far more reassuring than mysterious, which shows where her real strengths as a writer lie. “The Problem with Murmur Lee” is only a problem to those who don’t appreciate the vagaries of the human heart.