Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great characters and setting and a good mystery
Cons: Plot does bog down a little in the second quarter
The Bottom Line:
Farming in Texas
Makes delightful new setting
Sure to please readers
Lucy Finds Herself in a Killer Jam
Since I’ve been reading and enjoying Karen MacInerney’s Gray Whale Inn series since it started, I knew I had to move with her from Maine to Texas and start the Dewberry Farm Mysteries as well. Naturally, that meant when I was offered an ARC of Killer Jam, I jumped at it. As I expected, I enjoyed this new series debut.
Investigative reporter Lucy Resnick has changed the trajectory of her life. The former investigative reporter has bought the farm – literally. In this case, it was the farm her grandparents owned outside the small town of Buttercup, Texas. While the property has been owned by Nettie Kocurek the last few years, the farmhouse and barn were left untouched. After the summers Lucy spent there, the land holds warm memories for her.
She’s been there a few months when she gets a surprise visitor, a man who claims he is there to investigate the possibility of oil on her farm. It seems that when Nettie sold the land, she retained the mineral rights. When Lucy confronts Nettie about this, Nettie seems proud of herself and the trouble she is causing for Lucy.
But Lucy isn’t the only one who has issues with Nettie. At the annual Founder’s Day Festival, someone stabs Nettie inside the tent erected for the jam judging. The local sheriff, the victim’s nephew, doesn’t think he has to look any further than the outsider – Lucy. Can Lucy resurrect her investigative reporter skills to find the killer?
One of the things I have always loved about the Gray Whale Inn mysteries is the island setting. Then again, I love islands, so I connected with that setting right away. It did take me a little longer to warm up to this small Texas town, but by the end I loved it as well. The people and the location were charming, and I would love to go for a visit.
Speaking of people, the characters were great. Lucy is a strong woman, which is good considering what she faces over the course of the book. Her friends in town and the suspects are equally well drawn. Honestly, they are a huge appeal of the book, and I can’t wait to see them again. I really do hope that a potential new friendship being formed near the end is explored further in later books as well.
The plot is the only place the book stumbles. Overall, it is very good with twists and surprises along the way. In fact, I wasn’t completely sure how it was going to end or even what the motive might have been as we were closing in on the climax. However, I did feel like it bogged down without much forward progress in the second quarter. Once it got going again, however, it kept moving toward a wonderful climax.
A quick couple of notes. A sub-plot in the book involves Lucy’s friend Quinn and her abusive ex who is not paying any attention to the restraining order against him. Personally, I felt this added some great depth to the book. Additionally, there are questions about some supernatural elements that are left to the reader’s imagination. As you can tell by the number of supernatural books I read (or don’t read), that’s not my favorite thing in a mystery, but here it didn’t bother me at all. The one note that bothered me the most is a scene that where Lucy and Tobias, her potential love interest, completely forgot their reasons for their “date” and just had the date.
Of course, there are recipes. There’s the Dewberry Jam referenced in the title as well as a Strawberry Custard Pie that sounds divine. We also get cottage cheese and glazed maple twist recipes along with directions for making beeswax candles. And if you are curious about the name of the farm, we even learn about dewberries in the book. Personally, I’d love to be able to try them sometime.
For fans of the Gray Whale Inn books, there is a connection to this new series. It’s a small moment that made me smile near the beginning. Not that you need to read that series to enjoy this series debut at all. This book would stand up well even without that connection.
Now that I’ve gotten to know the residence of Buttercup, I can’t wait to visit them again. Killer Jam is filled with a good mystery, delightful characters, and a fun setting that will bring cozy readers back for many more visits.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.