Nacho Average Murder
Country Store Mysteries, Book #7
By Maddie Day
Author Website: edithmaxwell(.)com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
Robbie Jordan is temporarily leaving Pans ’N Pancakes, her country store in South Lick, Indiana, to visit Santa Barbara, California—where wildfire smoke tinges the air, but a more immediate danger may lie in wait . . .
While looking forward to her high school reunion back in California, Robbie’s anticipation is complicated by memories of her mother’s untimely death. At first, she has fun hanging out with her old classmates and reuniting with the local flavors—avocados, citrus, fish, and spicy Cali-Mex dishes. But then she gets wind of rumors that her mother, an environmental activist, may not have died of natural causes. With the help of friends, Robbie starts clearing the smoke surrounding the mystery—but what she finds could make it hard to get back to Indiana alive. (Goodreads)
It was delightful to visit Santa Barbara with our favorite Midwest country store owner and meet her friends from where she grew up! Maddie Day has successfully taken what is dubbed the American Riviera and given it the small-town feeling that cozy mystery lovers enjoy. The setting was described beautifully, the characters are as well-defined as necessary for their roles, and the mystery was … well, nacho average murder.
Robbie closed Pans ‘N Pancakes in South Lick, Indiana, for a week to give her staff a vacation while she went to her 10th high school class reunion in Santa Barbara. It was a great time of year to be there, as it was February, when Indiana was blanketed with snow. I enjoyed meeting her best friend, Alana, a biochemist who does cancer research, and her buddy Jason, now a cybercrimes detective. It was interesting to see how close-knit her old neighborhood friends have been. Her mother, Jeanine, passed away two years ago, and Robbie reached out to spend time with Liz, her mother’s best friend. Carmen, another friend of her mother’s, is the owner of Nacho Average Café, with its upstairs B & B where Robbie is staying, is the mother of Hector, another classmate. Katherine, Robbie’s nemesis, is as annoying as ever.
Carmen told Robbie that she heard something fishy about her mother’s death. Busy with the breakfast rush, she couldn’t say more at the time. Robbie and Liz met. As best as Liz and Robbie knew, Jeanine died from a ruptured aneurysm. Liz put Robbie in touch with Paul, a friend of theirs, with whom Jeanine was an environmental activist trying to get a fumigant used on crops banned in the county. The spray travels to neighboring organic farms and ranches, seriously harming farm workers, residents, and animals. The chemical is the primary one manufactured by the company Katherine’s father owned.
Paul had concerns of whether Robbie’s mother had been murdered. The chemical they were trying to get banned could either mimic, or cause, an aneurysm. The following day, Robbie went to the courthouse to request a copy of her mother’s death certificate and contact, with Jason’s help, the pathologist. The report wouldn’t be available until after Robbie returned to Indiana. She also went to the chemical company to get product information.
Robbie met more people affected by the chemical. Then, just two days after Robbie met Paul, he was found dead in his apartment. An autopsy proved that he had been poisoned. Robbie was deeply concerned about his death and possibly her mother’s being caused by the same people. She began to ask people questions as she did when looking into murders back in South Lick. She was stalked, once by a driver who tried to push her off the road.
Robbie is three-dimensional, and we continue to learn more about her. I would not have imagined her having any enemies, yet she and Katherine never got along and she didn’t know why. I enjoyed meeting Alana, Jason, Carmen, and Liz, as well as Carmen’s cat Pajarito, a twin to Robbie’s six-toed tuxedo cat in South Lick.
The author did impressive research when writing this novel. Robbie does all she can to maintain an exercise routine during her trip, including bicycling and walking on the beach. Even though Robbie is far from the contacts she has in South Lick, she has a small network of friends from the past and meets new ones each day. The mystery seemed to have only a couple obvious suspects, so the resolution was not completely a surprise. I did feel like something was missing, as it seemed that not all the loose ends were tied up as tidily as the author typically does. Perhaps I was simply looking for it to be more complex than necessary. Overall, I do highly recommend this mystery and series, and am looking forward to the next in series!