From the publisher—
Indulging their pleasure in travel and new experiences, recently retired private school head Maggie Detweiler and her old friend, socialite Hope Babbin, are heading to Maine. The trip—to attend a weeklong master cooking class at the picturesque Victorian-era Oquossoc Mountain Inn—is an experiment to test their compatibility for future expeditions.
Hope and Maggie have barely finished their first aperitifs when the inn’s tranquility is shattered by the arrival of Alexander and Lisa Antippas and Lisa’s actress sister, Glory. Imperious and rude, these Hollywood one-percenters quickly turn the inn upside-down with their demanding behavior, igniting a flurry of speculation and gossip among staff and guests alike.
But the disruption soon turns deadly. After a suspicious late-night fire is brought under control, Alex’s charred body is found in the ashes. Enter the town’s deputy sheriff, Buster Babbin, Hope’s long-estranged son and Maggie’s former student. A man who’s finally found his footing in life, Buster needs a win. But he’s quickly pushed aside by the “big boys,” senior law enforcement and high-powered state’s attorneys who swoop in to make a quick arrest.
Maggie knows that Buster has his deficits and his strengths. She also knows that justice does not always prevail—and that the difference between conviction and exoneration too often depends on lazy police work and the ambitions of prosecutors. She knows too, after a lifetime of observing human nature, that you have a great advantage in doing the right thing if you don’t care who gets the credit or whom you annoy.
Feeling that justice could use a helping hand–as could the deputy sheriff—Maggie and Hope decide that two women of experience equipped with healthy curiosity, plenty of common sense, and a cheerfully cynical sense of humor have a useful role to play in uncovering the truth.
I nearly always enjoy a cozy mystery series that features senior sleuths so Death at Breakfast had a head start with me from the beginning. I also enjoyed the setting in a bed and breakfast because such a location allows for a diverse cast of characters rather than the usual somebody-in-this-small-town-must-be-the-killer scenario and it accommodates a group of people who are mostly strangers to each other. Those points open up the solution to the crime to a wide range of possibilities.
Another aspect of the story that works well is that the murder doesn’t occur until well into the book. Normally, I prefer it to happen early on but, in this case, the delay gives the reader the opportunity to get to know the B&B guests and staff as well as a few townspeople so I really didn’t mind.
Maggie Detweiler and Hope Babbin are a pair of sleuths I’m happy to have met. Intelligent and friendly, they’re using this trip to Maine to see if they can stand each other well enough to do some traveling together, a terrific idea. They’re not snoopy, either, just well-suited to think about various potential clues and come to a rational conclusion. Very appealing sleuths, indeed. I also liked deputy sheriff Buster Babbin, Hope’s son, who’s definitely conflicted in his feelings about his mother and who suffers from a lack of self-confidence; watching some of those issues get worked out was a worthy side trail.
I have to admit that I figured out the general solution to who hated the obnoxious Alexander enough to kill him in a rather gruesome manner fairly early but not the details so the actual denouement held some surprises for me. I suspect each succeeding entry in the series will be tighter and I’m hoping this will become a long run.
Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2016.
About the Author
Beth Gutcheon is the critically acclaimed author of eight previous novels: The New Girls, Still Missing, Domestic Pleasures, Saying Grace, Five Fortunes, More Than You Know, Leeway Cottage, and Good-bye and Amen. She is the writer of several film scripts, including the Academy-Award nominee The Children of Theatre Street. She lives in New York City.
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