A Southern B & B Mystery #1
By Caroline Fardig
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
Southern hospitality meets deadly deception in the start of a charming new mystery series from the USA Today bestselling author of the Java Jive novels.
Quinn Bellandini loves her life in Savannah, Georgia, where she runs her grandfather’s B&B with her sister, Delilah. From baking fresh scones and serving up grits every morning to ensuring the guests see the best of their historic city, Quinn can’t imagine doing anything else—even if it means dealing with nuisances like the occasional malfunctioning commode. But when Quinn drops by the local restaurant owned by her friend Drew Green, and stumbles upon a murder, her whole world comes crashing down.
Drew’s brother was always a little surly, but Quinn can’t imagine that someone disliked the prickly chef enough to kill him. The police, on the other hand, don’t believe that Quinn was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Before her guests can even digest the next morning’s gourmet breakfast, Quinn learns that she and Drew are suspects.
Drew thinks they should do some investigating of their own. Quinn is pretty sure she’s better suited to playing hostess than amateur sleuth. But with Delilah as her cynical sidekick, Quinn starts looking for the real killer—before she gets put away faster than you can say “sugar.” (from Goodreads)
This fun first in a new series cozy mystery is action-packed, filled with delightful Southern charm, hospitality, and introduces two feisty sisters who aren’t afraid of getting their hands dirty. They and their grandfather, Papa Sal, manage the Bellandini B&B that some say has its own ghost in Savannah, Georgia. Conversations are realistic (well, except maybe with Uncle Frank, the resident ghost), the pace is fast, and the plot held my attention throughout.
Quinn and Delilah do much of the daily work at Papa Sal’s B & B in their gracious Southern neighborhood in Atlanta. Quinn loves the B&B and her role of chef. After spending an evening playing her guitar and singing on the porch, she finds their old neighbor, one of their high school nemesis’s, Tucker Heyward, has been listening to her. His compliments mean nothing to her, even though he has always appreciated the girl band, Sister Wildflower, that she and her friends started years earlier. Quinn believes Tucker was behind the horrible treatment that led to her sister having a terrible senior year, and doesn’t care what kindness he offers now.
She hurries to Green, the restaurant owned by her friend Drew, his brother Jason, and sister-in-law Valerie. The restaurant was closed, but she entered the kitchen and called out to Drew. Instead, it looks like a food fight occurred, then she finds Jason with a knife in his back. In a panic, she slipped on what she originally thought was pasta sauce, fell, and ran out with food and blood on her clothing. Drew and Quinn become the primary suspects, and Drew asks Quinn for help finding who the killer is. Before they get far, Drew is arrested for the murder of his brother, and detectives tell Quinn that she may be next, on suspicion of being an accomplice.
Quinn starts asking questions and begins to bungle, badly, due to inexperience. Delilah asks why she is rushing through chores and disappearing and Quinn admits what she’s doing. Delilah, a fan of many TV police procedurals, joins her, and for the first time in years, the girls begin to work as a team and enjoying each other’s company at something other than the B & B.
The characters, many of whom are delightful, are defined over the course of the mystery. Who each one appears to be in the beginning isn’t necessarily who they really are, making for a compelling read. At first I liked Quinn, then not so well, as she sees the world in terms of black and white, especially when it came to Tucker Heyward. When she has an opinion, it is almost impossible to change it. Delilah originally seemed shallow to me. I began to really like both of the sister when they started working together. Drew, portrayed as a nice guy at first, seems to have a few secrets of his own. Tucker begins to relentlessly pursue Quinn, who does everything short of slamming the door in his face. And Uncle Frank? Well, some say they talk with him regularly, and others don’t believe a bit of it.
The initial appeal of this cozy mystery is the delightfully colorful cover, with cat, pumpkin, and skull against the backdrop of a gorgeous southern mansion. It started a little slow (to me), with the pace picking up quickly and drawing me into the murder of a guy who had antagonized enough people to be murder suspects. There is excellent humor throughout; one of the snooping scenes was a complete crackup but for a couple moments of panic and one of poignant sadness. After a while, I had no suspects left, and was totally surprised when the killer was revealed. The end was satisfactory, with no loose ends but much to look forward to in the future. There might even be a couple lessons readers can learn throughout, at least that I noted. I highly recommend this to those who enjoy their cozy mysteries hard to solve, well-defined characters, with a healthy serving of Southern charm and a side of helpful ghosts.