Leila Khoury left Vermont after a broken engagement, intending not to return. Her father’s murder brought her back to Sugar Ridge, at least temporarily. She plans to go back to her teaching job in Florida but her father’s will changes all that: he has left Sarah his farm and business, asking that she work it for at least one year before she decides to sell. Sarah is shocked; she’d thought if Sappy Endings was to be left to anyone, it would have been either her mother or her brother Simon. It’s not as if she had helped her father a lot at the maple sugar farm, or knew about tapping trees.
Still, her father wanted her to try and Leila wants to find out who killed him. It looks like a robbery gone bad, but some things puzzle her enough to start asking questions—and maybe drawing out a killer.
This is the first in the Maple Syrup Mysteries, which means it can be a little uneven. First in series books have a lot of territory to cover: setting has to be established, characters introduced, and of course there has to be a mystery to be solved. I tend to cut such books some slack. I like the basic premise. The maple syrup process is interesting. I especially that Leila and her family are of Lebanese descent; I enjoy the little touches of another culture, revealed mostly through food. I also liked the complicated relationship between Leila and her mother and the slight progress they have made toward reconciliation. I also adore Toast the cat.
What I didn’t particularly care for what the way Leila kept jumping to conclusions and accusing everyone. That got old pretty fast. It’s often a cozy feature but not one I care for. She also let her insecurities cause a lot of friction with her family and her employees. I’m hoping she will have it a bit more together in the next book.
Finally, I had some quibbles about the ending but overall, it’s a good effort and I’ll be looking forward to the next in the series.
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