Christmas Cow Bells
Buttermilk Creek Mystery #1
By Mollie Cox Bryan
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
Christmas is a time for new beginnings, so after her big breakup, Brynn MacAlister takes the gouda with the bad. With her three Red Devon cows, she settles in bucolic Shenandoah Springs, eager for a new life as an organic micro-dairy farmer and cheese-maker. Then her dear cow Petunia’s bellows set the whole town on edge. But it isn’t until Brynn’s neighbor, Nancy, dies in a mysterious fire that her feelings about small town life begin to curdle .
It seems some folks were not happy with Nancy’s plan to renovate the Old Glebe Church. But is a fear of change a motivation for murder? As a newcomer, Brynn can’t ignore the strange events happening just on the other side of her frosty pasture–and soon on her very own farm. Suddenly Christmas doesn’t feel so festive as everyone demands she muzzle sweet Petunia, and Brynn is wondering if someone wants to silence her–for good . . . . (Goodreads)
Christmas Cow Bells is Mollie Cox Bryan’s lovely debut Buttermilk Creek Mystery. With a beautiful setting, unique theme, and likable protagonist, it lays the foundation for a delightful series.
Brynn has dreams of running a boutique dairy farm and making wonderful artisanal cheeses with her fiancé, but breaking up with him after he cheated makes those dreams harder. Intent on carrying on and making her dream a reality, she moves with her three cows to Buttermilk Creek Farm in Shenandoah Springs. It is a tight knit community reluctant to accept outsiders, and Brynn’s neighbor Nancy, also new to the area, is facing more than a little pushback with her plans of converting the old church into a market. When Nancy dies in a fire, Brynn cannot help but think that the fire is more than a tragic accident, and she sets out to find the truth.
Brynn is a personable, steadfast protagonist. I like her. She is surrounded by a variety of supporting characters that are interesting and diverse in age and personality, and they keep things interesting. The setting is bucolic, and Bryan’s descriptive writing makes me feel like I am there in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. The pace of the book is steady but still manages to reflect the slower pace of small town life. I love that animals are largely featured, including Brynn’s cows, a dog, and a cat. I look forward to their future shenanigans.
The mystery is well plotted and executed. I did suspect the killer’s identity pretty early on in the story, but there are plenty of suspects and red herrings included to make me second guess myself throughout. In addition to the murder, there is lots of talk of cheese which I enjoy.
Christmas Cow Bells is a promising start to a new series. I impatiently await the next installment. Recommended.