Silence of the Jams
Down South Cafe Mystery, Book #2
By Gayle Leeson
Author Website: gayleleeson.com
The new cozy mystery featuring Southern cooking from the author of “The Calamity Cafe.”
It’s Independence Day in Winter Garden, Virginia, and the residents are gearing up for their annual celebration. The Down South Cafe is open and flourishing, and Amy Flowers is busy making pies and cakes for the holiday. The only thorn in her side is Chamber of Commerce director George Lincoln, who is trying to buy the cafe so he can tear it down and build a B&B on the site.
When George collapses while eating at the Down South, everybody assumes it’s a heart attack until the autopsy declares it to be poisoning. Now it s up to Amy to prove her innocence before her liberty is lost. Includes delicious Southern recipes!” (Goodreads)
Peanut butter pie and strawberry jam are but two of the delights that Amy, owner of the Down South Cafe, is serving up. Amy’s cafe has only been open a couple weeks as the newly remodeled cafe she purchased from son of the late owner. She already has a good following, a smattering of customers from the previous cafe and those who come out of curiosity and like what they are served. Gayle Leeson’s characters, dialog and dramatic mystery is an exciting second-in-series novel that can easily be read as a standalone.
Chamber of Commerce President George Lincoln is at the counter for his early morning breakfast before going to the office. Dr. Taylor Kent, the only doctor in town, comes into the cafe for the first time and joins George at the counter. It seems like only minutes after he is served that he grabs his throat and crashes to the floor. There was nothing Doc Kent or Amy could do, as he was already dead. Shelly, one of the waitresses, was certain it sounded like he was saying ‘poise’ or ‘poison’ before falling, and was happy to share it with the sheriff, but Doc feels that he had a heart attack.
Amy is concerned that she might be considered at fault. Even though she knew she didn’t do anything to his food, Amy especially worried that her new cafe would die as quickly as George did – no disrespect intended. As she begins to ask questions about what happened to George, Jackie, Amy’s cousin,BFF, and a waitress at the cafe, gets an unwelcome visit. Her mother, Renee, who had left Jackie with her grandmother Amy’s Aunt Bess when she was sixteen, spun into town like a slightly-rumpled tornado. The biggest concern is how to keep their hearts safe through another visit and be able to go forward when she spins back out.
Amy and her family are charming, more fun than most in their small Virginia town. They are devoted to each other; family comes first. At least with the exception of Jackie’s mom, Amy’s Aunt Renee. We learn the most about Amy, as the narrator of the novel, then Jackie, Jenna, Aunt Bess, and Ryan, the deputy who Amy is dating. All are characterized by dialog that is at times amusing, at other times, anxious, but always caring. Amy’s ability to look at a recipe and know how it will come out, or perhaps alter it by additional items or make a larger quantity just baffles me. She (and our author!) have quite a talent with that! Homer, one of the regular customers, is a wise man; he and Amy are each other’s sounding board when they want to find out who the bad guy or gal might be.
The plot is very well planned and executed with twists that at times surprised me. I like the setting; it sounds like a beautiful place to be with people who help each other when necessary. I wish I could say I couldn’t solve the murder mystery, but this time I can’t, as there was a clue that tipped me off. There was another person who was more than once a red herring for me. The motive was the same that many of the suspects had. There are so many good suspects, especially when it seemed as if Mrs. Lincoln had disappeared! Homer and Amy had more than one discussion that made the list longer or shorter. In the end, I (and my curiosity) are satisfied and I’m looking forward to the next visit to the Down South s cafe. I highly recommend this novel to those who appreciate good recipes, well-written cozy mysteries, families who help each other out – and a town that, at times, seems like one big family.