Beth McKenzie’s attempt to turn an old Southern mansion into a Bed and Breakfast called The Dixie Dew is thwarted when her first guest is found dead in bed. Murdered, it turns out. Three days later a young priest is found strangled in his chapel. The whole town of Littleboro is abuzz, and Ossie Delbardo, the town cop whose job heretofore mainly involved controlling football traffic on Friday nights, is not cut out to solve the murders.
With her barely opened B&B in danger of failing, and aided by her friend from high school and trusty handyman, Beth sets out to discover the truth of the murders. Littleboro has its share of characters, some of which are helpful and others misleading. There’s Crazy Reba who lives in a tree, bathes in any bathtub she finds empty, and dumpster dives; Verna, the town know-it-all and affectionate owner of Robert Redford, a huge white rabbit; and Miss Tempie Merritt, music teacher and organist who always wears hat, gloves, and lace-trimmed white socks. When Beth herself is attacked, there’s no more time for baking muffins and stencilling pineapples on the porch. She’s in a race to uncover her neighbors’ secrets before her hometown becomes her burial ground.
When it comes to cozy mysteries, one of my favorite parts of them is all of the crazy townsfolk that are introduced. This particular one has no shortage of kooky and bizarre characters in this book. In fact, the characters are entertaining and they help to weave together an impossibly crazy, twisted murder plot(s). However, the one thing they can’t do is fix some of the issues I had with this book.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed the story and I look forward to reading the next book in the series. But… I had a big issue with some of the info dumping that occurs over and over again throughout the book. I loved the fact you weren’t immediately bombarded with all of Beth’s backstory. I even liked some of the times the author chose to explain more about the town and the past. But there were times where one thing would be mention in passing, like Beth was an art teacher and then a couple of pages later, there’s a more detailed account of how she went to college to become one and what school she taught at. The other big thing that bothered me was the constant references to her ex. I can only assume he’ll eventually make an appearance in the series, as that would explain why so little is truly revealed about why she was so willing to drop everything and move back home. After all, I suspect there was more than just the desire to restore her newly departed grandmother’s house. After all, she left a boyfriend, a life and a career behind.
Besides these random moments which tend to be short, there were some quaint and amusing moments throughout the story. Apparently this book was written twenty-five years ago, but I don’t think the book gives much away. After all, there are still small towns that remain untouched by the modern world. I know, because I use to live in one, that still only has one blinking light, a post office and a small store. I’m hoping the attempt to modernize it after so long is part of why it reads odd from time to time. Or perhaps it’s just my personal preference.
Regardless, I thought this was a decent start for what could an extremely entertaining and humorous series. My only real critique is that I hope Beth finally involves the cops at some point in the next book. Never once contacting them, doesn’t give the reader the appropriate opportunity to understand her complete distrust. Being a suspect in a murder, is not a good enough excuse and when someone breaks into your home/business and tries to assault you, that’s a perfect time to call the cops!