Bushwhacked, by Emily James (Stronghold Books, 2016)
It’s official. Nicole Fitzhenry-Dawes is moving to Sugarwood and learning the ropes of maple syrup making. Except before she even arrives, she’s pulled into another murder investigation. At least this time the police agree it’s foul play.
With the dubious blessing of interim Police Chief Erik Higgins, Nicole goes undercover at the local animal shelter to look for clues.
Erik, who she dated briefly last time she was in town, starts acting distant, and Mark, the county medical examiner, is friendlier toward her than a married man should be.
The mystery is cleverly plotted and executed, with some delightful imagery, and the characters are fun to read. I found this one slower to get into than the previous books, until the action sped up part-way through. Nicole missed a couple of key things that were obvious to me, and I’m not a reader who likes to feel smarter than the characters.
My biggest issue with her, though, is Mark. He’s too nice a guy to be two-timing on his perpetually-absent wife, and as a reader, I don’t have the patience to watch a character angst for a whole book over something so easily solved with a single conversation. Especially when it started in the previous book and was already wearing thin because the answer seems obvious to me (maybe I’m wrong… I’ll find out in the next book).
Despite that, Nicole is funny and quirky. As well as figuring out the human relationships in her life, she needs to decide what she thinks about her uncle’s faith. For now, in crisis, she talks to “Uncle Stan’s God.”
My mind felt a bit like a chalkboard wiped clean with a dirty brush. I couldn’t quite make the words that should be there come into focus. [Kindle location 1649]
She chuckled, but it sounded like a cardboard cutout of what laughter should be. [Kindle location 1724]
So far, each book comes with a recipe, and this time it’s maple cookies. I tried it, and they’re very tasty. I look forward to the next book, Almost Sleighed.
To find out more about author Emily James and the Maple Syrup Mysteries, or to sign up for your free ebook copy of the prequel, Sapped, visit authoremilyjames.com.
[Review copy from my personal library.]