Brought to you by OBS reviewer Daniele
As Suzanne is getting her hair colored at Root 66, she’s stunned to witness the County Services office next door suddenly go up in flames. Concerned neighbors throng the streets, and the fire department does their best. Unfortunately, their best isn’t enough to save longtime civil service worker—and friend to the Cackleberry Club—Hannah Venable.
Soon enough, it’s discovered that an accelerant was used to fan the flames. Someone set the fire on purpose—was Hannah the intended victim? Suzanne, Petra, and Toni vow to smoke out the culprit.
Unfortunately, the list of suspects is as varied as the Cackleberry Club’s menu. When Suzanne finds a possible connection between the fire and the nearby Prairie Star Casino, she comes to realize that the arsonist wanted something very big and bad kept secret. And if the ladies aren’t careful, they may be the ones gambling with their lives…(Goodreads)
The proprietors of the Cackleberry Club have a lot on their plate in this sixth installment in the Cackleberry Club series. The story opens with a fatal fire at the County Services building, and the victim Hannah is a relatively good friend of the ladies, especially Petra. When it is quickly determined that the fire was no accident, they cannot help but wonder if Hannah was an unintentional casualty or the victim of foul play. Suzanne is approached by more than one member of the community to help solve the crime. She does, after all, have a good relationship with Chief Doogie and can ferret information from just about everyone in town. In addition to the fiery tragedy, there is a wedding, the county fair, a dinner theater, and an owlet in need of care to keep Suzanne, Petra, and Toni busy.
There are plenty of suspects for Suzanne to investigate. Hannah’s husband Jack was having an affair and wanted out of their marriage. Marty Wolfson was estranged from his wife, who was rescued from the burning building, but he was still the beneficiary of her insurance. Fireman Darrel Fuhrman was recently let go from the fire station and could be a firebug or set the fire as retaliation. Ricky Wilcox had an argument with Bruce Winthrop, the county agent, over a pesticide permit and incriminating evidence was found in his car.
Things become dicey for Suzanne after she finds a casino chip in the fire rubble, and she is shot at, followed by a creepy clown, and is present at another fire, one that was set as a warning to her.
This death is more personal than those in most cozies, and this serves the story well. There is a sense of urgency to solve the mystery, and this helps move the plot along. There was potential for the book to get bogged down with all of the various activities, but in Childs’ deft hands all of the plot elements fit together seamlessly. Even small bits, like Suzanne taking care of the little owlet, are important to the resolution of the mystery. Of course, food is an integral part of the book (the main characters do run a restaurant). I did, however, find the personal storylines more interesting than the actual mystery in this installment. Childs has created mature (middle-aged) characters that are smart and resourceful. They are each very different from one another, distinct personalities, and I have enjoyed getting to know them over the course of the series. That being said, Toni is my least favorite character. Her relationship with her husband (Junior is just too silly for me) and her outlandish dress and attitudes are sometimes just too over-the-top. I also found Petra to be a little too judgmental and quick to jump to conclusions here. I will chock it up to her being emotionally invested in Hannah’s death and finding her killer. I look forward to Suzanne having a second chance at love.
Scorched Eggs is a strong entry in an enjoyable series. Ms. Childs writes some of my favorite cozy mysteries, and this is no exception. A small town, smart amateur sleuths, a little romance, and tasty recipes at the end of the book are an enjoyable combination. I recommend this mystery to those who are fans of Ms. Childs, those who like a healthy helping of Midwestern small town charm with lots of talk of food, and to those who like their protagonists a little older and wiser.