Plantation Shudders by Ellen Byron

24402497When the publisher offered me an advance copy of Plantation Shudders, I took one look at the cover and said, “Gimmie gimmie gimmie!” Just look at the cover—it’s got everything I could ever ask for in a cozy mystery: A sprawling plantation home that looks like a carbon copy of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion, an adorable basset hound sniffing out clues, and a spooky Louisiana setting dripping with Spanish moss.

Of course, some books don’t measure up to their promising covers, but that certainly isn’t the case for this first installment of the Cajun Country Mystery series. The lush Louisiana setting swept me away—making me long for a moonlit stroll with a hot detective amidst the backdrop of looming cypress trees and buzzing cicadas.

As for the food, I could practically taste all the delectable Cajun goodies—from Lia’s homemade pastries to Ninette’s prize-winning Crawfish Crozet. Thankfully the author threw in some recipes as an added bonus, so I’ll be putting my husband to work in the kitchen asap!

I knew I was in good hands when I read that the author wrote screenplays for Wings—one of my most favorite sitcoms ever! Her penchant for witty dialogue clearly comes through in Maggie’s interactions with the colorful cast of townies. Like the perfect pot of gumbo, the recipe for humor has to be just right. The author did a fine job weaving in some funny bits without going over the top and teetering into slapstickville. I would like to take this moment to thank her for not forcing me to endure another wild, trash-talking grandma. Of all the annoying topes that run rampant in this genre, that’s the worst.

As for the mystery, I had a great time playing the guessing game as Maggie pieced together the clues at her family’s Southern plantation house-turned B&B. She embarks on the case when a couple of elderly honeymooners drop dead within minutes of each other on a dark and stormy night. She soon finds out from the useless town sheriff that one of them died from very unnatural causes. With a house full of suspects, Maggie must ferret out the murderer before her jambalaya is cooked!

With some help from a tall, dark and dreamy detective named Bo, she probes into the victim’s background and discovers a broad range of possible motives. Turns out the seemingly docile old lady committed quite a few misdeeds back in her day. Pretty soon, the town is brimming with suspects—even a member of Maggie’s family is on the list!

I’ll stop right there before I give anything away, but I will say that this is a fun, fast read that will sweep you away to the heart of Cajun country. Although Maggie certainly has her share of problems, I would love to spend a day in her shoes. When she’s not checking in guests at her family’s B&B, she’s taking tourists out on plantation tours, or out in the woods painting landscapes. How fun is that? Oh and did I already mention the sinfully delicious cuisine her mom is constantly cooking up in the kitchen? Be still my heart!

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