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Also in this series: Murder at Barclay Meadow
Rosalie Hart has finally opened the café of her dreams. Decked out with ochre-tinted walls and stuffed with delicious organic fare, the Day Lily Café is everything Rosalie could have hoped for. But not five minutes into the grand opening, Doris Bird, a dear and trusted friend, cashes in on a favor--to help clear her little sister Lori of a first degree murder charge.
With the help of her best friend and head waiter Glenn, Rosalie is on the case. But it's not going to be easy. Unlikable and provocative, murder victim Carl James Fiddler seems to have insulted nearly everyone in town, and the suspect list grows daily. And when Rosalie's daughter Annie gets caught in the crossfire, the search for the killer becomes personal in this charming cozy perfect for fans of Diane Mott Davidson and Joanne Fluke.
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.
Some novels suffer from second-book syndrome. Death at the Day Lily Café is not one of them. Well-plotted, with deft characterization and perceptive writing, this book is everything I look for in a traditional or cozy mystery.
The title is a bit of misnomer—the murder doesn’t take place in Rosalie’s new café, but elswhere in Cardigan; the victim is the brother-in-law of one of Rosalie’s new friends. When Doris’s sister Lori becomes a suspect in her husband’s death, Doris asks Rosalie to investigate.
Rosalie doesn’t have a personal stake in this case. Unlike her first foray into detection, she didn’t find the body, and it wasn’t discovered on her property. But in a way, the stakes are higher for her this time, because the murderer is probably someone from Cardigan, the town she has made her home. And as the investigation proceeds, several of her friends become suspects. It’s harder to keep an open mind, and she worries that it could have been someone she likes.
Rosalie and the author share the same observational skills and understanding of human psychology and relationships. Familial relationships, especially between father and child, are a persistent theme throughout the book, from Rosalie’s reminiscences about her own father, to her daughter Annie and Rosalie’s ex-husband, and even her cook Custer’s troubled relationship with his narcissistic, ne’er-do-well sire. But other relationships are also important to the story, whether between sisters, mother and daughter, or romantic partners.
As much novel as mystery, Death at the Day Lily Café focuses equally on Rosalie’s life and friendships and on the mystery, grounding the latter within the deeply intertwined nature of small-town and rural life. And Rosalie’s life has become more complicated. Besides the pressures of running her new café, a hawk is carrying off her chickens… and Tyler, her business partner for whom she has growing feelings, hires someone to help him around the farm. Bini is a capable, no-nonsense woman who is nearly as taciturn as Tyler. I suspect Bini may fall somewhere on the autism spectrum; Eckel does a good job of portraying Bini’s personality with respect and without labels.
But the mystery isn’t neglected by any means. Carl James’s death might have been connected to a payroll theft at the nearby college. So the puzzles are, who stole the money, where is it, and is there in fact a connection to the murder? Rosalie listens, asks questions, and observes people’s reactions, assisted by her good friend and employee, Glenn. Eckel lets the reader in on Rosalie’s thoughts, without hiding clues, suspicions, or deductions. For that reason, I felt more like Rosalie’s partner in the investigation than a competitor in solving the case.
Rosalie and the author also share an interest and expertise in food: the café menus make my mouth water. Luckily, Eckel shares some of the recipes at the end of the book, including a vegetable egg back, potato cakes, carmelized-onion grilled cheese, key lime bars, and several varieties of seasoned salt. I’m looking forward to giving a few of them a try!
I highly recommend both books in the Rosalie Hart series. I suggest starting with Murder at Barclay Meadow. Of course you could start with book two—Eckel gives you everything you need to know—but your experience of Death at the Day Lily Café will be even richer if you’ve read the first book.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- COYER Summer Vacation 2016
- Cruisin' Thru the Cozies 2016