Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Dead and Berried Satisfies

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

I've realized that in order for me to enjoy a cozy mystery, I have to remind myself what I am reading. I have to tell myself not to expect complicated plots; deep characterization; realistic events; or heavy drama. A cozy is by definition (albeit my definition, not Webster's) light, fun entertainment. By willingly suspending my disbelief (because face it, few real world chefs/B&B proprietors/caterers/scrapbook store owners, etc. find dead bodies every month), I allow myself to sit back and savor these light mysteries.

So, when I picked up Karen MacInerney's Dead and Berried (the second in her A Gray Whale Inn Mystery series), I steeled myself. Then, I read. And enjoyed. In fact, I liked it better than its predecessor, Murder on the Rocks (see my review here). I think it's because of the ghost story threaded through this one, but I'm getting ahead of myself ...

Dead and Berried takes us back to Cranberry Island, Maine, the site of Natalie Barnes' 150-year-old Gray Whale Inn. As usual, Natalie's up to her neck in trouble. She's got the daily task of keeping her business afloat, coupled with the possibility of a subdivision cropping up next to her B&B, complicated by the fact that she vehemently opposes any construction that will put Maine's wildlife in danger. Her opinion makes her unpopular with Reverend McLaughlin, a recent transplant who's dating her best friend Charlene, as well as with the developers who are combing the island. Those issues are enough to keep her busy, but wait, there's more: her ex-fiancee shows up unexpectedly, promising to buy her a quaint B&B in Texas in exchange for her hand in marriage; she's feuding with Charlene; there's a chatty blonde watching her every move; and then there's the little problem of the ghost in her attic. To top it all off, Polly, her housekeeper, has disappeared, leaving Natalie with mountains of laundry to do. As if she didn't have enough on her plate! When soiled linens threaten to take over the entire inn, Natalie goes in search of her lost help. What she discovers is Polly lying dead in a bog with a gun in her hand and a hole in her chest.

Once again, Natalie has discovered a body, putting her back in the clutches of chain-smoking Sergeant Grimes. The bumbling cop declares Polly's death suicide, but Natalie's not so sure. For one thing, the woman had fresh berries and milk in her fridge. For another, she left a dozen cats to fend for themselves, an admission completely out of character for the feline-loving Polly. Knowing Grimes won't investigate the death as murder, Natalie channels her inner Nancy Drew once again. While she's poking into Polly's affairs (Why were 2 shots fired from Polly's gun when she only needed 1 to kill herself? Why was there a half-packed suitcase on her bed?), another island resident ends up dead. Suddenly, Natalie finds herself as Sergeant Grimes' prime suspect.

She's also quickly becoming the target of a cold-blooded murderer. If she doesn't find the killer she may end up in jail, or worse. Of course, considering the state of her life, she may also find herself homeless, penniless and loveless. Once again, she must pick apart the island's secrets to save herself and her beloved B&B. Oh yeah, and she really needs to take care of her ghost before she drives herself insane.

As you can see, this is another fun, fast-paced mystery from Karen MacInerney. There's a lot going on in the book, which makes it kind of a whirlwind, but I thought the mysteries were solved in a less predictable manner than in Murder on the Rocks. There were a few little things that bugged me, like the fact that the boatwright's name is spelled Eleazer in the first book, and Eliezer in Dead and Berried; and the lack of chemistry between Natalie and Benjamin; as well as a general choppiness to the writing; but overall, I enjoyed it.

Culinary cozies generally don't float my boat, but this series satisfies. For me, it's a delicious romp that gets better with each book.

P.S. The recipes in the back of the book look scrumptious. I'm going to try Barbara Hahn's Berried Medley Lemon Streusel Muffins as soon as I get the ingredients from the store :)

Grade: B

4 comments:

  1. I liked this one too. I see from her website that she is working on book #3 but I wish she would hurry up! LOL

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  2. I actually saw the new book available for pre-order at Amazon. It doesn't say when it comes out, just that you can pre-order now.

    Have you read any books from her other series, Kay? I'm wondering how they compare to the Gray Whale Inn ones ...

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  3. I have not read her other series. I think there is only one out right now and another coming out in November. This is a werewolf trilogy so that would be very different from the the Gray Whale mysteries. I keep thinking that I will go see her sometime when she is signing at a local store, but I haven't made it yet.

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  4. I know what you mean about needing to mentally prepare before reading certain types of books. I do enjoy a good cozy, but my mood has to be just right for it. This sounds like a fun series.

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