Four Leaf Cleaver
Country Store Mystery #11
By Maddie Day
Author’s website: edithmaxwell.com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
It’s Saint Patrick’s Day in South Lick, Indiana, but a holiday cooking competition at Robbie Jordan’s country store and restaurant Pans ‘N Pancakes is put on the back-burner when a killer strikes.
There’s no mistaking Saint Patrick’s Day at Pans ‘N Pancakes. Robbie may only be Irish by marriage to Abe O’Neill, but the shelves of vintage cookware in her southern Indiana store are draped with glittery shamrocks and Kelly-green garlands and her restaurant is serving shepherd’s pie and Guinness Beer brownies. The big event, however, is a televised cooking competition to be filmed on site.
Unfortunately, someone’s luck has run out. Before the cameras start rolling, tough-as-nails producer Tara O’Hara Moore is found upstairs in her B&B room, bludgeoned apparently by the heavy hilt of a cleaver left by her side. Now, not only does Robbie have a store full of festive decorations, she’s got a store full of suspects . . . (from Goodreads)
It is a delightful surprise to see a cozy mystery with a St. Patrick’s Day setting! While I’m happy to not see green beer or pancakes, a body is the last thing Robbie wanted to find, especially in one of her B&B rooms over Pans ‘N Pancakes, her country store/ restaurant. The mystery was clever, and kept me guessing as each clue was revealed. I enjoyed visiting Robbie, her family, and staff in South Lick, Indiana as winter gives way to spring. As always, there are little things I learn along the way, such as there being types of cheese made from the milk of sheep.
Holiday Hot-Off is a cooking contest reality show filmed on location in various restaurants on holidays. St. Patrick’s Day is Monday, the only day that Pans ‘N Pancakes isn’t open. Robbie gets to meet Tara, the emcee and person in charge of the show, and her crew on Sunday after closing time. Robbie is there as the owner of the restaurant as well as the B&B, where Tara and her assistant, Jaden, will stay. Danna, one of Robbie’s co-chefs, stays to watch the preparation.
Nicky is from Hoosier Brewing Company, the sponsor of the event. Each of the eight contestants’ recipes will include Irish stout as an ingredient, provided by his company. Other requirements include that the total time from preparation to serving their dishes cannot exceed one hour, and each will be an Irish dish. The judges will be three local people, including Buck, the police lieutenant who frequents the restaurant and who Robbie helps with investigations.
Tara is seen having an argument with Nicky, while her assistant looks terrified of her. Two of the contestants came in; Liam is very familiar with Tara and, while confident of a win, is not happy to see her. Abe, Robbie’s husband, signed up when he learned that he would have the day off. He is Irish and an excellent cook. When he arrives, Abe realizes he knows Tara from their time in the Navy. He isn’t ready to talk about it yet, which is a surprise since Robbie and Abe are usually very open.
On Monday, everything is set up, the contestants are ready, but Tara hasn’t come downstairs. The show cannot begin without Tara’s approval on everything and taking her role as emcee. She doesn’t answer phone calls or texts. Finally, Robbie took her master key and went upstairs with Buck to see if Tara is okay. They find Tara dead, and it is clear she was murdered. Before the filming began, the contest was over.
Many character descriptions are observed through realistic conversations and behaviors, others are as related by another character. Each of the mysteries in this series can be read as standalones thanks to how well the author includes just enough backstory so a new or returning reader can easily adapt. I was happy to see how well Abe and Robbie have settled into their marriage. It is also good to see how well Abe’s teenage son, Sean, and Robbie continue to grow their excellent relationship.
Robbie asks her friends for information, anything she can share with Buck and Oscar, the state police detective, to help them get a killer off the streets of South Lick. Both men have seen the value of what she learns from people. She is typically very level-headed when considering information she does learn. I was surprised when so many people, even from out of state, have heard of Robbie’s vintage cookware shelves, as well as how it sounds larger than I had thought it was. There were surprises throughout, including who the bad guy really was. The end was satisfactory, including resolution of some personal circumstances. I recommend this mystery and series!