Down South Cafe Mystery, Book #3
By Gayle Leeson
Author’s website: gayleleeson.com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
The owner of a delightful Southern cafe tastes the sharp sting of suspicion in this delectable comfort food mystery . . .
It’s fall in Winter Garden, Virginia, and business at Amy Flowers’ Down South Cafe has never been better. So when struggling beekeeper Stuart Landon asks Amy to sell some of his honey, she’s happy to help. The jars of honey are a sweet success, but their partnership is cut short when Amy discovers Landon’s body outside the cafe early one morning.
As Amy tries to figure out who could possibly have wanted to harm the unassuming beekeeper, she discovers an ever-expanding list of suspects–and they’re all buzzing mad. She’ll have to use all of her skills–and her Southern charm–to find her way out of this sticky situation.
What a wild ride this mystery is! Returning to The Down South Cafe in Winter Garden, Virginia, is sweeter with each new novel and I don’t just mean Amy’s delectable baked treats. The recipes for the cakes at the end of the book sound SO good! This novel has everything that makes a good cozy mystery – interesting occupations, a small town with a full range of quirky people, a murder that has no obvious suspect, and pretzel-type twists that kept this reader completely in the dark of who the bad guy/ gal might be, even 30 pages from the end.
Amy’s cafe has been open about a month, and business is good. She has been dating Deputy Ryan Hall for a few weeks, and life couldn’t be better. Her cousin and best friend, Jackie, has been dating Roger, the contractor who did the remodel on the Cafe. Luis, the student who buses the tables and runs the dishwasher, know the customers and is protective of the ladies.
Amy has begun to sell Stu Landon’s honey from his local farm bees; the first day was so successful that she goes to his farm to get more before next week’s delivery. Stu, a very private person who has been rumored to have been a spy or CIA agent before moving to Winter Garden, was having a bad day. His neighbor, Chad, sprayed his fields that day and hundreds of Stu’s bees had died. He offered to deliver more honey to the Cafe in the morning.
The next morning, Amy sees Stu in his pickup truck in the parking lot, and went to let him know she would open up for him. Stu was dead, clearly murdered. The suspect list at first seemed short. There was concern about a distinguished man who had come into the cafe the day before wanting to know where Stu lived. Walter Jackson sounded honest, but Amy wouldn’t give up the information. Stu planned to see the farmer, Chad Thomas, after Amy left the day before, Could he have been the culprit? Deputies had confirmed Stu had been murdered someplace else and put in his truck that had been moved to the Cafe’s parking lot.
While the team of investigators was still in the parking lot, a young woman came in from out of state, claiming to be Stu’s daughter. She and Amy try to work together to find who may have killed her father. In the midst of the challenges, a representative from Ives Oil and Gas is doing testing throughout the town to see if there was natural gas in the area. Stu’s son Brendan was a wild young man running around with his cousin. Rude and threatening, Amy kicked them out of the Cafe. And Chad wanted desperately to purchase Stu’s land. The ‘motive’ list grows.
I love this small town full of delightful, caring people! Each are well-rounded. We learn the most about Amy, since we see the story through her eyes. Other characters such as Amy’s family, Ryan, Jackie, Cafe customers, and others are well-defined. A couple of the regulars always catch my eye, such as Homer, who has a new hero and quote every day, and Dilly, who takes a biscuit to the racoon who comes to her every evening for it.
This novel drew me in from the beginning and kept me riveted throughout. Honey-Baked Homicide has plot twists and turns through to the very end! With less than 30 pages to go, I still had absolutely no idea who killed Stu, why Walter Jackson was really in town, and the possible involvement of Stu’s son in the events. To say I was stunned to find out the truth is an understatement – I had not even considered this person as the bad guy/ gal, so well was this mystery written. There is at least one more surprises at the end that is fun, leaving wide the door to see what happens in the next book. I highly recommend Honey-Baked Homicide – it can be read as a standalone, yet I can promise you’ll want to read the first two!