By Karen MacInerney
Dewberry Farm #1
Thomas & Mercer, 2015
When Houston reporter Lucy Resnick cashes in her retirement to buy her grandmother’s farm in Buttercup, Texas, she’s looking forward to a simple life as a homesteader. But Lucy has barely finished putting up her first batch of Killer Dewberry Jam when an oil exploration truck rolls up to the farm and announces plans to replace her broccoli patch with an oil derrick. Two days later, Nettie Kocurek, the woman who ordered the drilling, turns up dead at the Founders’ Day Festival with a bratwurst skewer through her heart and one of Lucy’s jam jars beside her…and the sheriff fingers Lucy as the prime suspect.
Horrified, Lucy begins to talk to Nettie’s neighbors, but the more she gets to know the townspeople, the more she realizes she’s not the only one who had a beef with Nettie. Can she clear her name, or will her dream life turn into a nightmare?
Killer Jam by Karen MacInerney beautifully fits into the cozy mystery genre that I enjoy so much. The rural setting of Buttercup, Texas is vividly conveyed and central to the story. Characters are created in this first-of-series story that will keep me wanting to come back. The mystery plot is well crafted, with the murder victim being a character you love to hate and the number of possible suspects just right. And Killer Jam is a clean read, which I greatly appreciate.
A series succeeds or fails based on the main character, and I found Lucy very appealing. During her years as a Houston crime reporter, Lucy had dreamed of the simpler life that she had experienced years earlier in Grandma Vogel’s kitchen, which led to her purchase of Dewberry Farm … “I went from being Lucy Resnick, reporter, to Lucy Resnick, unemployed homesteader of my grandparents’ derelict farm.” Lucy doesn’t go over the top in investigating the murder, but draws on her investigative journalist skills and contacts in order to defend herself.
There’s a gentle humor throughout that I loved. A couple of secondary characters add depth – Tobias, a veterinarian and possible romantic interest, and Quinn, a good friend with an abusive husband. There’s Rooster, an uncooperative sheriff who was elected more for his family connections than skill. We also see local prejudice between the German and Czech communities, and an unsolved murder going back to 1940.
And, of course, what would a cozy be without endearing animals? I fell in love with Chuck, a bald, slightly overweight poodle, and Blossom, a cow that likes to overturn buckets of milk when they are full and has hidden talents as an escape artist. I’ve got a feeling that Lucy is going to increase the animal population on Dewberry Farm in future stories and can’t wait for these developments.
Going forward, I hope for more character depth and maybe a little less descriptive passages. But Killer Jam is a great beginning to what promises to be a delightful cozy series.
Note: Karen MacInerney also writes the Gray Whale Inn mysteries, a cozy series set in one of my very favorite places to visit through fiction – Maine.
Karen is the USA Today bestselling author of multiple cozy mystery series, and her victims number well into the double digits. She lives in Austin, Texas with her sassy family and a menagerie of animals.
When she’s not chauffeuring children or coming up with creative ways to kill people, you can usually find Karen hiding away with a book, dodging laundry, playing in the kitchen, or attending martial arts classes. (No fatalities on the last two fronts–at least not yet.)