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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Review - Town in a Lobster Stew

While many of us are still experiencing cold temperatures and even some winter storms - let's jump to spring time.  Join me in small town Maine for a murderous stew.

Author:  B.B. Haywood

Copyright: Feb 2011 (Signet) 358 pgs

Series: 2nd in Candy Holliday Mysteries

Sensuality: N/A

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy

Main Character:  Candy Holliday, Blueberry farmer and writer of the Community Corner for the Cape Crier paper

Setting: Modern day, Cape Willington Maine

Obtained Through: Publisher for an honest review

Apparently the trend so far in this series is to center the mystery around a town event.  In this installment the town is excited about the approaching Lobster Stew Cook-off competition on Memorial Day weekend.  The person who wins the the Cook-off becomes local royalty.  Wilma Mae Wendell contacts Candy because somebody managed to enter her house and find a hidden drawer containing a ledger with a 13-time prize winning Lobster Stew recipe.  Wilma wants Candy to find that ledger with the recipe - which was given to her by the creator of the recipe - her dear friend and neighbor Mr. Sedley. 

What seems like a mild little problem becomes a murder investigation when Mr. Sedley's body is Wilma Mae's basement.  It appears he was killed in Wilma's house and dumped in the basement.  Now Candy is trying to figure out who would kill over a little recipe, no matter how good it is.

Candy Holliday has a lot of potential as a main character.  It seems as though Candy is a rough character still growing and becoming.  She moves through the book as a pleasant character but one that could be so much more.  I never got a sense for her emotions or passions.  Even when an issue is raised between Candy and her father around Candy being too busy and not relieving him with the blueberry farming duties that he can't keep up with - but it  was quickly dropped.  The opportunities to give Candy a bit more depth aren't explored.  The perfect example was in a surprising meeting with her arch-nemesis where Candy could have revealed more depth - but didn't.

The supporting cast is a bit stronger.  Candy's BFF, Maggie, is a fun character even though she has had her rough spots.  Maggie jumps in to care-take Wilma Mae and shows a touching and funny side.  Candy's dad has only a few scenes in the book but he and his buddies promise to be a continued hoot.  Candy's romantic interest, editor of the small local paper only has a few appearances so it was hard to get a proper feel for him.  What did come across is that there is no "magic" in their dating, even Maggie comments on it.  Candy's arch-nemesis was a good character and I would have liked her showing up past the middle.

The mystery itself had a few twists but I had figured out the killer fairly early.  The road to Candy discovering the killer was a systematic investigation and played out well.  But I do have to say that the ledger was stolen for more than just the recipe contained in it - but we never find out WHAT that was.  That is a large thread left loose.

The setting is used to advantage in this book.  Be prepared to want to spend your next vacation in Maine.  This book subtly envelops you with the beauty of the state.

There was a suspenseful confrontation with the killer, which I do so enjoy.  The wrap-up had some good information revealed.  But I wanted a follow-up from the meeting Candy had with her nemesis - but that never happened.  There was a set-up for elements of this story to come back in another book to bite Candy.  That closing set-up made me wonder if the ledger will be part of the continuation of this story in another installment and then we will find out what was in it.  So it was successful in making me want to read the next story to find out how that plays out.

I had not read the first book so I can't compare this second book to the previous.  This is a good cozy mystery with some missed opportunities to become a really good mystery.  We may see Candy develop depth as the series matures.

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