The Moonshine Shack Murder
Southern Homebrew Mystery
By Diane Kelly
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
In this intoxicating new cozy mystery series, the future for modern-day moonshiner Hattie Hayes looks bright–until death darkens the doorstep of her Moonshine Shack.
The Hayes family has made moonshine in Chattanooga since the days of Prohibition, and Hattie is happy to continue the tradition, serving up fun, fruity flavors in mason jars for locals and tourists alike. All signs indicate her new ‘shine shop will be a smashing success. What’s more, mounted police officer Marlon Landers has taken a shine to Hattie. For the first time ever, the stars seemed to have aligned in both her work and romantic life. But when a body ends up on her store’s doorstep alongside a broken jar of her Firefly Moonshine, it just might be lights out for her fledgling business.
The homicide detective can’t seem to identify the person who killed the owner of a nearby bar. The only witness is Hattie’s longhaired gray cat, and Smoky isn’t talking. When the detective learns that the victim and Hattie had a heated exchange shortly before his murder, she becomes her prime suspect.
Lest Hattie end up behind bars like her bootlegging great-grandfather a century before, she must distill the evidence herself and serve the killer a swift shot of justice. (From Goodreads)
This is a solid first in Diane Kelly’s exciting new cozy mystery series set in Chattanooga near the Great Smoky Mountains. There is a sweet bit of history in this novel, including a family business and its roots from the early 20th century Prohibition era. I learned interesting things about moonshine; I had no idea it is produced and sold in some states today. The mystery is captivating, the characters are a delight (especially granddaddy!), and the author’s trademark humor brightens up even the most stressful scenes. Just ask Hattie’s cat, Smoky, what was chasing him in the woods!
Hattie is opening the Moonshine Shack, having learned how to make moonshine from her grandfather, Ben. She is selling some of his corn liquor in the Shack, as well as her Firefly brand in several fruit flavors and cinnamon. On the night of her invitation-only celebration, she offers free samples of ‘shine, just as she will when officially open. Cormac, of Limericks, an Irish bar across the street, came in with Miranda, one of his waitstaff. Wanting to strike deals with local bars, she made an offer for him to buy her ‘shine. Before returning to his bar, he gave Hattie an order. She is warned away from doing business with him by two people: Mack, owner of the best barbecue restaurant in town, and Heath, an attorney who sued the surly bar owner for several clients. The sales rep from Backwoods Bootleggers, the biggest moonshine manufacturer in the area, came in uninvited to see what she sells. The next day, Cormac refused her delivery as he has just agreed to an exclusive with Backwoods in exchange for a better price.
Business trickles in over the next few days. Granddaddy helps Hattie on the weekdays, and Smoky claims the front window as his own when he joins them. Friday night, Hattie, Smoky, and grandaddy left late after cleaning up from frat boys who caused chaos. They broke a bottle of ‘shine and slipped out the door with another. During the night, Hattie suddenly awoke and couldn’t remember if she locked the shack door or set the alarm, so she went back. She did forget to set the alarm, but at least the doors were locked. Just before she left, she heard unusual noises out front and went to check. Outside the front door, Cormac lay bleeding. She tried to stop the blood and called 911, but it was too late. Cormac was dead, and her cat, Smoky, from his perch in the front window, was the only witness. The police officer who arrived thought Hattie did it, as he was killed with a piece of a broken moonshine jar. Her moonshine.
I enjoyed meeting Hattie, her family, and friends! The author has done an excellent job showing us who Hattie is and what we need to know about Grandaddy and friends Kiki and Kate. We also meet new friends and/ or business associates Miranda, Marlon, and Mack. Hattie is easy to enjoy, as are her friends. It is hard for her to know which fellow business owners to trust, as several have something against Cormac, with good reason. He had not endeared himself to the community, which makes me curious how his bar had been successful. Granddaddy is a real hoot; I can’t wait to know him better!
This cozy mystery had me hooked from the beginning. Hattie, Kiki, Granddaddy, Marlon, and Ace were engaging; I would love to see something brewing for a couple of the folks in the future. The mystery kept me guessing, as there were several people who could have killed Cormac. I was very surprised at the end with regards to who the killer was and the motive. I hope one of the future episodes will show some of the making of the moonshine, since we’ve seen the first case of ‘shine go into the jars. I highly recommend this first in a new series!