Merry Muffin Mystery #1

Bran New Death
Victoria Hamilton

Merry Wynter has had a rough couple of years, firstly with her husband dying in a car crash and secondly with losing her job in circumstances which make it unlikely that she will ever get another one in that field.

Months earlier she had inherited a castle on the death of an Uncle she had met only once, briefly, as a five year old. She had listed it for sale immediately, without bothering to see it. The property didn't sell. Now, without a job or an income, she moves to upstate New York to see why the castle is unsaleable, and to see what she can do to get rid of it and get some money.

She finds a charming looking small town filled with eccentric characters, but also filled with intrigue. She's warned not to go to the castle as nothing but death awaits (no, it's not a gothic horror, even if that's what comes to mind with that warning!), she finds most people unwelcoming, but she determinedly moves into the castle. The castle has been in her father's family for generations, she immediately sees its potential as an upmarket inn or reception centre, but knows she will never get a buyer with the rundown condition it's in. To make it worse, someone has been digging massive holes all over the grounds. She starts hearing the rumours - that her uncle killed his business partner & buried him somewhere on the property, and that her uncle himself was murdered. She has a public run in with a man she suspects of digging the holes on her property. And then that man turns up dead in one of the holes. Merry has to clear her name before she can make any progress with selling the castle.

This is a perfect cosy style murder mystery. There are plenty of sub-plots that need to be cleared up and lots of suspects. The main characters are all appealing. The story is well paced, and the hints scattered throughout the book are enough to suggest the murderer if you pay attention.

When we finally got the reveal at the end, I already had an inkling of who it was going to be. I didn't quite get the whole thing figured out, but there was no sudden twist, no sudden reveal of someone completely unexpected being exposed as the murderer. But finding out whodidit is only a small part of this style of book, the most important part is the little world the author creates. The world that you really want to visit, to meet those quirky characters, like old Doc English who thinks nothing of wearing a woman's straw sunbonnet when he can't find his own hat and wants to go for a walk.

Like many of American cosy murders involving food (Merry makes muffins), the book has a couple of recipes at the end. To be honest, these particular recipes don't appeal to me, but I like them being included. I probably would have felt robbed if I'd read this style of book, heard about the various muffins she was making and didn't get a muffin recipe or two to try. It's just unfortunate that she included ones that don't appeal to me.

A great mystery to curl up with and enjoy. Recommended for any who loves cosy murders. This is the first in a series, I've already requested the second book from the library and am looking forward to reading it as soon as I get my hands in it.

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