It has been quite some time, but Jeanne is back today with the lateest of her Treadmill Books Reviews.
Treadmill Books: Berried Secrets: A Cranberry Cove Mystery by Peg Cochran
Monica Albertson is settling into life in Cranberry Cove, Michigan. She moved to the small town in order to help her half-brother, Jeff, with his (what else?) cranberry farm. Jeff has recently returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan, only to find the farm in serious financial trouble, possibly due to mismanagement by the caretaker, Sam Culbert, who is also the local mayor. When Culbert turns up dead at Jeff’s farm, Monica is determined to prove that her brother is innocent.
And yes, recipes are included.
I read a lot of cozy mysteries, so I feel I pretty much have the formula down pat. Even though there are a certain number of “givens” to a cozy, there are still those books that stand out for one reason or another—or in the case of a very good one, several reasons. Berried Secrets and the sequel Berry the Hatchet stood out for me because I felt the characters and relationships were less cardboard figures than in some genre books. While some start out as stock characters—Monica’s blonde, home-wrecking stepmother Gina for instance— several acquire more depth, changing relationships in a believable manner. The strong supporting cast was definitely a plus, including elderly candy sellers and a handsome bookseller. Cochran’s willingness to let the characters change and grow over the course of the two books was a definite plus.
Monica herself doesn’t stand out per se; she’s a loving sister, devoted to her younger brother, and determined to help him get his life back on track. She decides to create cranberry concoctions to sell to help support and publicize the farm (this is where the recipes come in) and to fit in with the locals. Love of her brother also encourages tolerance of Gina, despite the latter’s dramatic tendencies.
The mystery aspect was well done, too, though I did solve part of the clues before the heroine.
I do have to note that in the second book the victim is also the town mayor, though of course not the same one killed off in book one. I can’t help but wonder if the mayor’s job is cursed, like the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher’s position in Harry Potter....
The titles in order are Berried Secrets, Berry the Hatchet, Dead and Berried, and Berried at Sea.