Fair Trade, by Heather Day Gilbert (WoodHaven Press, 2020)
This third instalment in The Barks & Beans Café Mystery Series sees brother and sister co-owners Bo and Macy Hatfield on location at the West Virginia state fair with a booth for iced coffee, snacks, and a few of the shelter dogs who make up the “barks” side of the name.
This time, Macy reconnects with an old school friend, now a country music star, who’s in town for a couple of concerts at the fair. Macy enjoys the chance to see behind the scenes in the band, but when there’s an attempt on her friend’s life the rest of the band suddenly look like suspects.
The fairground atmosphere took me back to fun childhood memories of rides, food, and exhibits. Favourite line:
It was a curious concoction of popcorn, hot dogs, and caramel, mingled with the very human scent of something I could only describe as undiluted excitement.[Kindle location 719, Macy describing the scent of the fair]
I found the psychology especially interesting in this story, and of course Coal the Great Dane is a treat. I like how he’s always featured on the covers. Waffles the clueless shelter dog is back, as well of course as the likeable siblings and their staff and friends. And there’s a surprise cameo appearance by someone fans will recognize from another Heather Day Gilbert series.
Another thing I appreciate about this series is the overarching plot threads that link the books. Not that a reader couldn’t start here and be happy, but continuity-wise it’s better to start at the beginning and watch it all unfold. Each story is complete on its own, but as well as developing relationships there’s the shadowy background villain who keeps inserting himself into Macy’s life.
Fair Trade is a quick, clean cozy mystery that may have you wishing for a chance to take in your own local fair.
Award-winning author Heather Day Gilbert writes cozy mysteries, suspense and romantic suspense, and Viking historicals. For more about the author and her books, visit heatherdaygilbert.com.
[Advance review copy provided by the author. My opinions are my own.]