Penned In

Farm-to-Fork Mystery #5

By Lynn Cahoon


Brought to you by OBS reviewer Jeanie


Angie Turner, chef at Idaho’s finest farm-to-table restaurant, has organized a team-building event at a haunted prison, only to find a real-life murderer in their midst. . . .
Contented employees make for a successful restaurant, which is why the County Seat’s crew goes on a quarterly out-of-office meeting. This time, the location is the Old Idaho Penitentiary near the Boise Foothills, a prison brimming with ghostly lore. The lock-in features actors role-playing as guards, fascinating prison stories . . . and an unscripted murder.
Who sentenced one of the faux guards to a very authentic death? Angie, her boyfriend, and the County Seat gang are locked in with a killer—excellent motivation for a little sleuthing. Between ghostly apparitions and flesh-and-blood suspects, Angie’s plate is full, but will her luck, and her life, hold out until the gates reopen at dawn?


It takes a unique talent to pack an entire novel-length cozy mystery into a novella, and Lynn Cahoon is up to the challenge in this night before Halloween tale. I have enjoyed full-length novels in The Farm-to-Fork Mystery series and like the restaurant, characters, overall setting. While I am familiar with the characters, the author includes a sufficient overview of Angie, her staff, her boyfriend Ian, and lovable Saint Bernard, Dom. I did miss seeing the restaurant this time, but the setting more than makes up for it. I did not figure out who the bad guy was in this fast-paced tale but did enjoy each step of the way!

It is time for the quarterly staff team-building event, and Matt has chosen the location and made reservations. The County Seat, Angie and Felicia’s upscale restaurant, pays for the costs and the wages of the staff while “inside”. And indeed, they are inside this time! They will be locked “inside” the Old Idaho Penitentiary in Boise, where people can be “sentenced” for a night. The County Seat team and Ian will spend the night in lockup with seven other “residents” and four folks playing guard duty. It is the night before Halloween, a night when ghosts of the past are reputed to be the most active. The most notable former resident who might be wandering is Lyda Southard, and this is the night she typically makes her presence known.

The “residents” are trying to relax in their respective cells and hear a scream. When the group tracks down the source, they find one of the guards outside the library in a pool of blood. Pat, one of the two guards that were arguing earlier in the evening, was dead, murdered. They attempted to find the other guards and located two. Unfortunately, only one cell phone and key was allotted per shift. Both had been on the dead guard earlier but could not be found. Worst case, they would have to wait until the gates automatically open at 6 AM, leaving them still locked in the old west prison for the rest of the night with a killer.

The characters are defined perfectly. Favorites are Angie, in part due to love of her pets and care for people in her employ, and Estebe, because of his desire to protect the staff, including Hope, the newest prep cook and their former dishwasher. The guards and other guests, including two couples who were just married that day, are among the mysteries.

Plot twists and turns keep the suspect list a moving target! On one hand, our County Seat friends simply want to finish the night and leave; on the other hand, at least one killer is locked in with them. When it seems like Nancy, another chef, has been taken over by the ghost of Lyda, is there an unseen something involved? I did not figure out the real bad guy, or even have an adequate suspect list, and had quite the surprise at the end, in more ways than one! I highly recommend this exciting Halloween tale!

*OBS would like to thank the publisher for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review*