It was actually a really tough choice picking this weeks BotW partly because I didn’t read as much last week and partly because none of what I read was an absolute stand out for me. So in the end, I’ve settled on Tonya Kappes’ Southern Fried – a cozy crime mystery that comes out today, which has its issues, but overall was the book I had the most to say about of last week’s reading!
This is the second in the Kenni Lowry series – about the sheriff of small town in Kentucky who is assisted on the job by the ghost of her grandfather (no, don’t walk away, it’s not quite as nutty as it seems) who was also the town’s sheriff. Kenni loves her job, but her mother isn’t best pleased about her daughter’s vocation – and neither are some of the townspeople as the local crime rate starts to rise. In Southern Fried, Kenni is investigating the death of a man found dead in the greenhouse of his former (as it turns out) employer in the run up to a cook off that they were both taking part in. In working out what happened, Kenni gets tangled up in family feuds and local intrigue just as election season is starting to get underway. As the danger mounts, Kenni, her dog Duke and her new (and handsome) deputy Finn must work out what’s going on before the rising death toll scuttles Kenni’s chances at holding on to her dream job before the voting even starts.
There’s a lot that I liked about this – I love the southern setting, the mystery is fast-paced and twisty with a potential slow burn romance running alongside. However as a Brit, I struggle to get my head around the idea of elected sheriffs and the hyper-local police forces and at times Kenni doesn’t help with this. In the first book in the series I found her spacey and not entirely convincing on police procedure (especially for a police academy graduate) but she seems much more competent in this one, which helped me cope with the fact that she’s taking advice from a ghost! Regular readers will know that I have a strange releationship with the supernatural and parnormal in books*, but in the main this works for me. There were still a couple of points where I raised my eyebrows at Kenni’s actions – an amateur detective can get away with a lot more than a sheriff can – but the book moves quick enough that you only notice this when you stop to think!
This book also made me muse on the role of the knowledgeable background character in cozy crimes. Kenni being the sheriff is a double-edged sword – it means that she has the right to be investigating crimes (and indeed is likely to come across them) in a way that many of the sleuths in cozies don’t, but it also rules out an important source of information and means that at times the sleuth can come across as not being very good at her job. there’s a couple of points in this where Finn the deputy seems like he knows what he’s doing more than Kenni does. But this is only book two in the series and is a big step on from book one so there is lots of potential for development and improvement as the series goes on.
* As in sometimes it works for me and sometimes it doesn’t but I can never work out in advance what I’m going to like and what I’m going to hate!