Peach Clobbered by Anna Gerard (Cozy Mystery Novel, July 2019).
This is the first in a new cozy mystery series, set in a small touristy town in Georgia. Although the author has published no less than ten previous novels, Peach Clobbered is the first to appear under this name. The earlier books, comprising three separate mystery series have been published as by Ali Brandon and Diane A.S. Stuckart. Since the copyright notice for this one is by Diane A.S. Stuckart, it’s most likely the author’s legal name. Using pen-names is not uncommon, especially when a given author is writing different series in different genres and sub-genres.
One of this author’s series apparently features Leonardo Da Vinci, while the other two are cat mysteries. Peach Clobbered marks the author’s entrance into the branch of cozy fiction centered on the hospitality industry. In this case, the amateur crime solver is Nina Fleet, a recently divorced woman who has left the big city (Atlanta) to live in the quaint town of Cymbeline, Georgia. She’s barely settled in at the sprawling Queen Anne style house she bought from an elderly lady’s estate and is toying with the idea of converting the place into a Bed & Breakfast. But then a man who thinks he has a prior claim to the property intrudes on her hopefully quiet, new life.
The guy in question is a two-bit actor presently making ends meet as a local ice cream shop’s mascot. That explains why he appears at her door wearing a penguin costume. The bulky get-up combines with the scorching heat of Georgia summer to make Harry Westcott lose consciousness there in Nina’s yard.
She revives him with a glass of lemonade as her trusty canine companion Mattie looks on. Though irritated, she has at least mixed feelings toward Harry from the start (this will surely be explored in detail in later books of the series).
Meanwhile, a group of mostly aged nuns outside of town have lost their lease. Shady real estate developer Gregory Bainbridge is kicking them out of their convent in order to put up a golf resort. Nina is more-or-less forced to take in the homeless Sisters of Perpetual Poverty, so her once-vague B&B idea becomes an overnight reality.
Then somebody fatally stabs the next person seen wearing the penguin get-up. No, it isn’t Harry–but the sleazy developer. Did somebody (Harry’s allegedly obsessed stalker, perhaps?) mistake Bainbridge for the actor? Or was it one of the many townsfolk who had a grudge against the manipulative real estate creep?
Nina finds herself having to investigate, with Harry and the nuns also playing roles as we get to known numerous quirky locals and, in the end, the truth is revealed.
This is an entertaining start to a new series, with good characters and lots of fun sides to it. The author even gives a subtle and amusing nod to her other writing projects by having her heroine relax by reading an unnamed talking cat mystery book.
A final note: while a special peach cobbler dish plays a minor part in the proceedings, this is not (as I’d assumed upon picking it up) one of those cozies where you get the protagonist’s favorite recipes.
Oh, well. You can’t have everything.
What you do have here is a lot of fun and interest for the lover of colorful small towns with murder mysteries to be solved.