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by Sarah Fox
Kensington, September 2022
304 pages
ISBN: 1496734033

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Sadie Coleman is the original worry-wart. Shady Creek, Vermont is having a new autumn festival: A Taste of Shady Creek. Her pub, Inkwell, is represented, as are many other businesses in town, including the craft brewery of her boyfriend Grayson Blake. Her mother is coming to town for some of the event; she's never been before, so this will be a lot of firsts. First time in Shady Creek, first view of the Inkwell, first meeting with Grayson, first tour of a craft brewery it's a lot for a mom to ingest in a short weekend. Every one of these firsts gives Sadie a reason to worry. Luckily for the reader, Sadie is not a micro-manager. She trusts her people to do the right/best thing as the occasion arises. Otherwise, readers would go bonkers over Sadie's thought processes.

Her worry-meter red-lines when she and Grayson discover the body of Dominique Girard, food writer, under one of the casks at Spirit Hill. The cask didn't kill her. The bloody wrench under Grayson's sink did that. It seems that Dominique and Grayson have some pre-Sadie history; he thinks Dominique killed his mentor's daughter, Samantha Shields. Even though Dominique has plenty of other enemies in the area, Grayson is convinced that he will be arrested, and won't be able to solve the crime himself; he disappears and won't tell Sadie or any of his friends where he is, although it is almost certainly very local. Sadie won't rest until she solves the crime so Grayson can come home again. What will her mother make of all of this? Sadie starts making lists of possible suspects, and then tries to find out who does and doesn't have an alibi for the evening in question. Even though Shady Creek is a small, rural town, crossing people off the list presents some challenges. Not everyone is honest with Sadie, and not all the lies are intentional.

This is the fifth book in the Literary Pub series; Fox has two other series currently in print. Other reviewers have described Sadie in glowing terms. Perhaps I am getting too old to be delighted by a grown woman who can capably run a business but still worries more about what her mother will think than about being honest with that same mother, one who can't sleep at night because her grown-up boyfriend might be camping out overnight in the woods instead of in a warm bed, one who dithers a lot.

Fox handles the setting well. Late fall in Vermont is crisp and cool, hinting at the winter coming all too soon. The characters are mostly other business owners as well as friends; this bodes well for other books in the series. It's always nice to have an established group of locals to draw upon for back story, plot lines, and the like. Pacing? Well, this did slow down a bit in the middle. Not uncommon, and certainly not enough to ruin the book; sometimes a drink should be savored. What bothered me the most was the feeling that Fax didn't play truly fair with the reader. I knew who the killer was before the final chapter, and yet had nothing concrete on which to base my conviction. The family connections vital to the denouement were also not realistically laid out until the very end. So a mixed drink, with a nice balance between ingredients and still just not to my taste.

P.J Coldren: I have been reading and reviewing mystery fiction for over a quarter of a century and read broadly within just about all genres and sub-genres. I live in Northern lower Michigan with my spousal unit, one large cat, and two fairly small dogs.

Reviewed by P.J. Coldren, November 2022

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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