A Spice Shop Mystery #4
Minotaur Books, December 2016
Small towns have character…And characters. Southern ones seem to have more outgoing and colorful ones. It might be a combination of the heat, humidity and sweet tea. In this entry in the author’s Spice Shop mystery series, protagonist Piper Prescott is trying to get back on her emotional and financial feet following her divorce from her slick lawyer husband CJ. He’s on his way to marrying his new arm candy, while Piper is trying to figure out where she stands with local veterinarian Doug Winters. Things seemed to be heating up until his teen daughter came to live with him and started building a wall between them. To put it succinctly, Piper feels like a wallflower at a high school prom.
Speaking of sayings, this story has them in abundance. Some are trite, while others are very witty, spicing up the dialogue and offering readers interesting mental images of situations and inhabitants of Brandywine Creek. When the story opens, most of the women in town are up in arms over the dictatorial behavior of Sandy Granger, who is directing Steel Magnolias at the town playhouse, although she seems to be spending more time angering cast members than doing her job. One of the affected cast members is Piper’s best friend, hairdresser Reba Mae Johnson.
Shortly after Reba is heard to say she’s tempted to wrap her hands around Sandy’s neck, someone goes one better and strangles the director with her own scarf. That brings the production to a screeching halt, fires up the town gossip machine and lights a fire under the mayor’s backside because he hoped the play would bring lots of visitors to town. While Piper and Reba play amateur detective, the local sheriff, who alternately intimidates and attracts Piper, depending on the moment, seems intent upon nailing Reba for the crime. What ensues is a classic cozy, with more small town intrigue and doings than actual crime. However, the eventual unmasking is done nicely, with Piper and Reba running the evil doer to ground. My only criticism of this fun to read story is that there are times when so many different characters show up at the same moment or event, keeping track of them is challenging.
Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS, May 2019.