Prowling the library stacks at the end of a seriously stressful week, I settled on a strategy for weekend reading. All the literature on the shelves looked utterly dreary and boring–or bloodthirsty in that pugilistic style affected by some male fiction writers. No sale there, real life was offering up enough doom and gloom. So I picked through the mysteries, searching for light and lively—figured a couple of foodie murder mysteries would provide the perfect escapes.
Mimosas, Mischief, and Murder has a lot of food in it—southern biscuits, neighborly green bean casseroles, chicken nuggets for the kids, a few candy bars for the chocoholic and one Dove Bar that was truly mouthwatering. But the heroine of this Alabama whodunit is a professional home organizer and the only recipes on offer are tips for storing mementos and clutter-clearing that appear at the end of each chapter. That’s an interesting demographic appeal–homemakers who would rather read than sort and toss or scrapbook?–although I’m not sure how effective it is as I was reminded at every cliffhanger that I should probably be clutter-clearing my own home instead of reading for hours in medias mess.
Ah well, Sara Rosett has crafted a more-than-competent, quasi-cozy. Smarr, Alabama is a small town and people are pretty hospitable, when they aren’t killing each other. Ellie Avery is visiting her fighter-pilot husband’s relatives during his home leave, two young kids in tow. Only when they arrive, hubby’s grandpa has just died suddenly and things are tumultuous. Almost right away the facts don’t add up neatly and Ellie, who is the star of a number of alliterative adventures, starts asking questions. She has a reputation as something of a busybody, nicely off-set by the fact that she does solve murders that just happen around her.
It’s definitely a light read, the stakes are lower than they might be. Smarr is the scene of an annual book fair and books and writers wander in and out of frame. Grandpa has a few secrets and a private, lifelong friendship with a famous but reclusive author whose correspondence he kept meaning to return. Various Avery relatives go greedy over the dead man’s possessions and a wild rumor about a hidden fortune in cash takes over the town. Arson occurs, threats are made, break-ins happen, a will delivers a knock-out punch of a surprise, a corpse disappears from a funeral home and gravediggers flee at discovery on a dark night. Another man dies in grandpa’s house but this one falls down the stairs and breaks his neck—or was he pushed?
Ellie gets grief for meddling but that doesn’t stop her. She keeps the kids fed and occupied while dropping off and picking up relatives in need of transportation and attention. Is her marriage in trouble? Is her/his family harboring a homicidal relation? Will Ellie’s kid score fourteen books from the book fair? When do they get to the mimosas? It all works out. Mimosas, Mischief, and Murder is not a foodie mystery, alas, but it is a good way to kill a few hours watching other characters stress about their lives. My sole quibble with the book is that Dove Bar. I would have enjoyed the read a lot more if there had been a few of the dark chocolate-chocolate kind in my freezer.
Mimosas, Mischief, and Murder (Ellie Avery Mysteries) Sara Rosett | Kensington Books 2011