Batter Off Dead
A Country Store Mystery, Book #10
By Maddie Day
Author Website: edithmaxwell(.)com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
In Agatha Award-winning author Maddie Day’s tenth Country Store Mystery, Pans ‘N Pancakes owner and part-time sleuth Robbie Jordan must untangle the clues to find the killer of a knitting circle member…
In South Lick, Indiana, fine foods and classic cookware can be found at Robbie Jordan’s Pans ’N Pancakes. Unfortunately, her country store also seems to stock up on murder…
Robbie and her new husband Abe O’Neill are enjoying a summer evening in the park with fellow townsfolk excited for some Friday night fireworks. In attendance are senior residents from Jupiter Springs Assisted Living including Roy Bird, father to South Lick’s very own Police Lieutenant Buck Bird. Despite his blindness, Roy is a member of his group home’s knitting circle, spending quality time with some lovely ladies.
But when the lightshow ends, one of the knitters who sat with Grant is found dead, a puncture wound in her neck. The poor woman’s death echoes that of Buck’s mother and Grant’s wife—an unsolved homicide. To help find the killer, Robbie’s going to have to untangle the knotty relationships deep in the victim’s past.
It is July in South Lick, Indiana, and the residents are plenty steamed in the thick humidity. Robbie and her husband of six weeks, Abe, are at the summer weekly Friday night fireworks display. Lieutenant Buck Bird of the South Lick PD is off duty, and invites Robbie, owner of Pans ‘N Pancakes, to meet his father, Grant, and Grant’s lady friend Vi. Robbie has owned the very successful combination breakfast restaurant and country store for a few years and knows many of the townspeople.
It’s hard to believe this is the tenth novel in the series already! Each one is better than the last, with three-dimensional, hard-working, down-home folks, a charming town, and gentle humor that lightens even the most stressful day. Robbie has helped solve several murders since she moved here and purchased the restaurant, and is as much a part of the community as the lifelong residents. This, and the other mysteries in the series, can be read as standalone as there is sufficient backstory included.
When the fireworks were over, Robbie and Abe heard Grant, Buck’s father, calling for help, wanting someone to find Buck for him. Vi was dead. It seems she had been killed under cover of darkness and the noise of the fireworks. Grant, who sat closest to Vi, is blind, so he could not have seen anything occur. Later, Robbie learned that Vi was murdered in the same way Grant’s late wife and Buck’s mother, Yolande, had been killed decades ago. There were several similarities, including the same childhood friends being at the fireworks. Yolande’s murder, however, had never been solved.
There is one difference that could prove significant. Vi had a daughter and son, Tina and Upton. When Robbie learns who they are, she recalled seeing them at the fireworks that night. They weren’t sitting near Vi though. Since then, they seem to be arguing whenever Robbie sees them. Things she sees and hears add them to her mental suspect list.
This case brought Oscar, the detective, back from the Indiana State Police to work on the case with Buck. He knew how Robbie hears a lot of information, often good, at the restaurant, and knows many people around town. He is finally asking Robbie to let him know what she hears or finds rather than trying to shut her down.
Robbie makes new friends throughout the series. Grant, Buck’s father, reside at an assisted living facility, as does another lady they were friends all their lives. Vi had lived in the room next to Grant, and he hears her son and daughter trying to figure out what to do with the things their mother had. Grant had Robbie look in Vi’s apartment for a special folder, and what she finds in it could change everything.
There is a unique combination of characters, each of whom contributes to the success of each novel. Being defined just right and allowed to grow, the regular characters bring readers back for more. Descriptions of secondary or one-time folks are critical to each novel. This series novel and series is successful in part due to realistic characters, conversations, and actions. One of my favorites has been Robbie, partly because of the range of things she has done, including the remodeling work to make B&B rooms above the restaurant. Abe brings a bluegrass band to the series that underlies the charm of the town. Buck’s easy-going nature and Southern sayings are such a delight! I also enjoyed meeting his 100-year-old maternal grandmother, Simone, who may not have the stamina of a young person, but her mind and memory is sharper than mine. I hope to see more of Grant and Simone in the future and meet Buck’s wife.
Another contributor to the success of this series, I think, is how each mystery is unique and challenging enough to keep a reader’s attention and participation without being tedious or an echo of other mysteries. This mystery is as fresh and new as the first in series. Plot twists changed who was on – or off – my suspect list, and I was kept guessing from the start. There were several people who could have killed Vi. Could it be whoever caused Yolande’s death many years ago? The ending was explosive, exciting, and very satisfying, with all loose ends tied up. I highly recommend this novel and series!