Today’s features is one of my newest downloads from a favorite author. Death at Breakfast, by Beth Gutcheon, the first entry in a stylish and witty mystery series featuring a pair of unlikely investigators—a shrewd novel of manners with a dark heart of murder at its center, set in small-town New England.
Intro: Maggie Detweiler, new-minted woman of leisure and not at all sure she was going to like it, had no sense of impending tragedy as she posed in front of the broad stone veranda of the Oquossoc Mountain Inn that bright October morning. She didn’t really know what made her say to Hope, “When your picture’s being taken, don’t you always wonder if it’s the one that will run with your obituary?”
“Well, that one won’t be,” Hope Babbin said, consigning the image to the digital trash can. “Hold still and smile, will you?”
Teaser: Sophie and Ada were sitting in the great room, waiting. They burst into tears as they heard, at last, the sound of the dog’s scrabbling toes on the slate floor of the hall. As Colette rushed toward them they were rushing the other way, into the two women’s arms. They shook and sobbed there. (50%).
Synopsis: Indulging their pleasure in travel and new experiences, recently retired private school head Maggie Detweiler and her old friend, socialite Hope Babbin, are heading to Maine. The trip—to attend a weeklong master cooking class at the picturesque Victorian-era Oquossoc Mountain Inn—is an experiment to test their compatibility for future expeditions.
Hope and Maggie have barely finished their first aperitifs when the inn’s tranquility is shattered by the arrival of Alexander and Lisa Antippas and Lisa’s actress sister, Glory. Imperious and rude, these Hollywood one-percenters quickly turn the inn upside-down with their demanding behavior, igniting a flurry of speculation and gossip among staff and guests alike.
But the disruption soon turns deadly. After a suspicious late-night fire is brought under control, Alex’s charred body is found in the ashes. Enter the town’s deputy sheriff, Buster Babbin, Hope’s long-estranged son and Maggie’s former student. A man who’s finally found his footing in life, Buster needs a win. But he’s quickly pushed aside by the “big boys,” senior law enforcement and high-powered state’s attorneys who swoop in to make a quick arrest.
Maggie knows that Buster has his deficits and his strengths. She also knows that justice does not always prevail—and that the difference between conviction and exoneration too often depends on lazy police work and the ambitions of prosecutors. She knows too, after a lifetime of observing human nature, that you have a great advantage in doing the right thing if you don’t care who gets the credit or whom you annoy.
Feeling that justice could use a helping hand–as could the deputy sheriff—Maggie and Hope decide that two women of experience equipped with healthy curiosity, plenty of common sense, and a cheerfully cynical sense of humor have a useful role to play in uncovering the truth.
What do you think? Does this one captivate you? Would you keep reading?