Resourceful amateur sleuths solve tricky mysteries against the backdrop of home renovations, small Southern towns and an Ohio ice cream shop.
★ The Last Curtain Call
Juliet Blackwell’s refreshing The Last Curtain Call continues her Haunted Home Renovation series with a twist: Mel Turner is dealing with a ghost in the attic of the house she’s remodeling, and the spirit may be connected to her current work project, a remodel of the beautiful Crockett Theatre. On top of that, Mel must negotiate with a group of squatters occupying the theater, some eccentric historical preservationists and a faceless consortium steering the project, rich folk who smack of gentrification. Details of the San Francisco Bay Area make for a series of sensory delights, and a trip to a Fremont museum illuminates Northern California’s connection to Hollywood in the silent movie era.
Booked for Death
Charlotte Reed is starting life over. The young widow left her teaching career to take over her great-aunt’s North Carolina bed-and-breakfast, and she’s keeping its literary theme and events afloat, complete with menus drawn from classic novels. A rare book dealer who’s staying at the B&B manages to rub everyone the wrong way and is soon found dead. Booked for Death has local color and a sizable suspect list but still makes time to talk about grief, family secrets and the limits of an intuitive hunch versus actual detective work. Author Victoria Gilbert combines a whodunit setup with Southern hospitality, which makes for smiles full of very sharp teeth and characters we’re glad to meet—but can’t turn our backs on.
A Deadly Inside Scoop
A freak storm hits Chagrin Falls, Ohio, but Bronwyn “Win” Crewse is committed to making handmade scoops of her grandmother’s finest recipes for her family’s ice cream shop. Then she discovers a body in the snow. Author Abby Collette fills series starter A Deadly Inside Scoop with details about Chagrin Falls, Crewse Creamery and Win’s family and friends. Were this not a story about murder, it could almost be a “Gilmore Girls” reboot. Police may be inclined to suspect Win’s dad because he’s African American. She must clear his name without drawing further attention to the family, all while keeping her fledgling business afloat. This balancing act keeps suspense high throughout, so readers will appreciate the sprinkles of silliness all the more.