Eggs on Ice by Laura Childs (Cozy Mystery Novel, December 2018).
The fatal knifing of a shady (and widely disliked) attorney during a dress rehearsal for an amateur theater group’s upcoming holiday production of A Christmas Carol puts Suzanne, cafe co-owner and amateur detective into investigative mode yet again. its the eighth book in the Cackleberry Club Mystery series, one of a whopping three ongoing cozy series by the prolific Childs (plus she recently started a fourth, a more hardcore crime-thriller).
The Cackleberry Club is a combination small town cafe, book store and fabrics store. She co-owns and runs the place, with her friends, Toni and Petra. As here, Suzanne always finds herself drawn to play amateur detective when crime visits her home town of Kindred, Minnesota. And of course her friends/partners are drawn along for the ride.
Local Sheriff Doogie (yes, that’s his name) doesn’t like her sticking her nose in his business. But since he’s none-too-bright (in tried and true amateur detective tradition), he could use all the help he can get.
In a nod to her ‘official’ occupation, this is yet another cozy series featuring recipes of dishes mentioned as available at the cafe. This genre convention may be wearing thin for some, but is a modest but welcome bonus for food-obsessed readers (okay, including me!).
Small town atmosphere, with local color and quirky yet enjoyable characters, is another reliable feature of this sort of book. And Childs provides this most capably.
Another tendency (rising often to cliche level) is that when the killer emerges it is the least likely potential suspect. A side factor is that one of the most likely turns out not only innocent, but rushes to the detective’s aide with life-saving heroism. These complimentary twists are exactly what happens in this slightly slim (274 pages of text, supplemented by several pages of recipes) volume.
A further add-on (and another familiar aspect to series publishing these days) is that you also get an excerpt (the opening chapter) of Childs’s next publication. It’s a new entry in her Tea Party Mysteries series, set in and around Charleston, South Carolina.
This isn’t meant as a put-down of the book, it’s simply to alert readers that writing a “fair” mystery (in which the reader is given genuine clues in among the red herrings and thereby have a ‘fair’ chance to solve the puzzle along with the investigator) isn’t what Childs is aiming for here.
The worried villain panics and reveals the truth in trying to murder Suzanne, despite not being at all on her radar till then.
One plot point did truly bother me, I admit. Sure, Doogie gives Suzanne and company a lot of leeway (how else would the evil-doers ever get caught?). But how come Suzanne and Toni don’t get charged with breaking and entering during the course of their investigation? I know, yes, a certain bending of rules of logic (not to mention law) is a common thing in the cozy world. But–really? Read the book, if you must know what I refer to.
And bottom-line: This is otherwise an enjoyable read.