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Posted August 24, 2009
It's a delight to be back in Winter Break, Kansas, population 600. Plans for a town library are moving along. At Ruby's Redbird Café the burgers are still "heaven on a bun." Protagonist Ivy Towers has found her dream home, a charming old Victorian overlooking the lake. He bookstore is doing well. Best of all, she is engaged to marry Deputy Sheriff Amos Parker.
The only fly in the ointment is Dela Shackleford, a pushy newcomer from Dodge City who usurps Ivy's plans for a simple wedding. Dela hopes to ingratiate herself with the locals by turning Ivy's wedding into an extravaganza. When Dela turns up dead, done in by one of her own wedding props, suspicion falls, albeit lightly, on Ivy.
Muddying the waters are a series of small bank robberies, a flurry of anonymous phone tips about the murder, a stray border collie that keeps prowling the perimeter of Ivy's place, a missing bracelet, and Ivy's extra set of keys, also missing. Strangest of all, someone seems to be stealing huckleberry jam out of Ivy's basement.
Winter Break may be just a wide spot in the road but there's plenty going on. Ivy has strict instructions from her fiancé and Sheriff Hitchens not to play Sherlock Holmes but they might as well tell her to stop breathing. She's so attuned to the people around her that she pieces small, apparently unrelated things together to trap the killer.
Mehl knows her small town and its characters well, and writes with humor and understanding. Ivy's philosophy is "Nothing so broken that God can't mend it." In this novel, she has more than one opportunity to test that philosophy.
Mehl includes Ruby Bird's secret recipe for the Redbird Burger. At first glance, it reads like death on a plate. However, Ruby's burgers are a pound each. Maybe if you cut the recipe way down .
Pat Browning, author of Absinthe of Malice
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