The Calamity Café
An Amy Flowers, Down South Café Mystery by Gayle Leeson
Review: Amy Flowers inherited some money from her grandmother and she's finally ready to spend some of it, to open her own café in Winter Garden, Virginia featuring good Southern-style cooking. She even has a name picked out for it: the Down South Café. Now all she needs is a location. She's currently working at the only restaurant in town, Lou's Joint, and rather than compete with Lou Lou, the owner, she decides to buy her out. Lou Lou refuses at first, but seems to have a change of heart, inviting Amy to meet her at the restaurant one night. But when Amy arrives, Lou Lou is dead from a bash on the head, in The Calamity Café, the first mystery in this series by Gayle Leeson.
Amy is sure she'll be suspected of the crime. But there were means and opportunity available to any number of other people, who might have wanted to see Lou Lou dead, and Amy's motive is weak, even to the police. But she can't shake the feeling that someone might want to frame her for the murder anyway, so begins an informal investigation on her own. What she learns leads her to believe that Lou Lou's murder may have been related to an unsolved crime committed decades ago, one that resulted in a large sum of money that went missing and was never recovered. When the pieces start to fall into place, Amy realizes her life is in danger, and she must identify the real killer before they strike again.
There are probably too many elements at play here for a first in series mystery; it's a bit too much, actually. In addition to introducing a new cast of characters and their various interpersonal relationships, the series lead has to solve not only a mystery in the present but one in the past. There is also the matter of renovating the restaurant (once Amy purchases it from Lou Lou's estate in what must be record time for a business transaction) and all that goes on with that, which adds additional secondary characters who may or may not be involved with either or both of the mysteries. And, of course, renovations (in crime novels) being what they are, they tend to uncover the unexpected when they are least expected. The author deserves considerable credit for juggling all these plot points while still moving the story along at a good clip, but it's still somewhat messy along the way. The Calamity Café is a competant start to this series, but not an exceptionally strong one.
Acknowledgment: Penguin Group provided an eARC of The Calamity Café for this review.
Review Copyright © 2016 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in The Calamity Café: Virginia
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The Calamity Café by Gayle Leeson — An Amy Flowers, Down South Café Mystery
Publisher: NAL Books
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Publication Date: June 2016
List Price: $7.99
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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