Chick Lit Cafe’s Book of the Month: Murder and Moonshine by Carol Miller

murder-and-moonshine-a-mystery-416948-3d2bd95f279b0f78a91eI must confess, I totally bought this book based on its cover. It looks like a Sookie Stackhouse story—sans the bad boys with pointy fangs. I just love mysteries set in the rural South, so when I saw this gorgeous cover on the new release shelf at BookPeople, it was a done deal. Was it worth the hardback price? Keep on reading my review to find out!

The mystery begins one fateful morning at the H & P Diner, a greasy spoon known for Daisy’s prize-winning pastries. It’s the kind of place you see in the movies where all the local yokels stop and stare at any strange interloper who walks through the door.  Daisy’s busy going about her morning routine when an old hermit, Hank Dickerson, staggers up to the counter, mutters the word “burger” and drops dead.

Soon, people start talking about death-by-poison, and the possibility of H&P closing down for good. This doesn’t bode well for Daisy, who has been left penniless after her no-good husband skipped town. She depends on her meager paycheck to pay for her ailing mother’s medical bills and hopes to save up enough money to open her own bakery. But without a steady job, how will she ever scrape by? Little did she know, that was the least of her problems.

Things go from bad to worse when she makes connections between her boss, Hank Fitz, and the dead man. Still grieving over her father’s tragic death at her former family homestead, she’s unwilling to believe that a longtime friend could be capable of cold-blooded murder. Why would he have any reason to poison the town recluse?

Hank’s stories aren’t adding up, but Daisy just can’t find a motive. The local bad boys, however, certainly seem capable of murder. Somehow, the tobacco-chewing Balsam brothers managed to buy her family property, acres upon acres of valuable rolling green hills and cornfields. According to local gossip, they’ve been doing some dirty dealings with some city folk. There sure seems to be a lot of interest in her childhood stomping grounds, and somehow old man Dickerson got in the way of their money-making schemes.

The plot thickens when a handsome stranger from the city walks into the H&P. When Daisy finds out that he’s an ATF agent, she immediately regrets flirting with him over a hot plate of peach cobbler. You see, she has some bad history with the ATF and refuses to have anything to do with a member of a federal agency that ripped her family apart.

But as the mystery intensifies, she reluctantly enlists his help in hunting down clues, which all seem to lead straight to her old family homestead. How did the Balsam brothers manage to buy such an expensive piece of land? And why would a dying man order a burger in his final moments on earth? You’re going to have to read the book to find out!

Aside from the murder mystery, Daisy sure has a lot to figure out. She’s got a sexy bad boy on one side and an irresistibly handsome federal agent on the other. They’re both hers for the taking, but she’s too mixed up with bad memories to make a move. Plus she’s got to look after an invalid mother and a zany, gun-toting aunt. To say that she has a lot on her blue plate special is an understatement!

What I love about Daisy is that she puts family first and is willing to stop at nothing to clear her beloved boss’ name. I was rooting for her every step of the way. Hopefully we’ll get to see her open up a bakery in the next book. As for the love triangle, the jury’s still out on those guys. If she ends up with the Balsam brother, I hope he changes his redneck ways. I may live in Texas, but I’m sorry, there’s nothing sexy about a wisecracking good ol’ boy who whores around with the town tramps and makes unwanted advances toward hard-working waitresses. No thank you!

All in all, I must say that this is a mighty fine mystery that is sure to win over fans of authors like Jana Deleon, Cathy Pickens and Riley Adams. There’s romantic tension, small town mystique, and downhome Southern cooking. Who could ask for anything more?

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