The tiny Appalachian village of Mount Penn is the type of sleepy, close-knit place where townspeople don’t even bother to lock their doors.
Several of the ladies of the town (and a few gentlemen) gather each week at the Mountain View Inn for what they’ve dubbed the Thursday Morning Breakfast Club. It’s a thinly-veiled excuse to catch up on town gossip, and soon there will be lots to talk about, as the town unexpectedly erupts with violence, disappearances and murder.
It all begins when club member Clare Ballard is seen with a new bruise on her cheek. Everyone assumes it’s yet another bout of abuse they suspect her husband Roger is guilty of. Before that troubling incident is cleared up, another breakfast club lady, Hester Franklin, is called upon to rescue and prove the innocence of her grandson Patrick after he’s been arrested for transporting drugs.
It only gets worse when the club leader, spunky Lillie Mae Harris, finds the dead body of a suspected local drug dealer on the hiking trail. The prime suspect is hotheaded Roger Ballard…only he turns up dead in his backyard shortly thereafter, and his wife Clare claims she’s the killer (though no one believes her). Add in an attack on the matriarch of the club Alice Portman, some disappearing townspeople, and you have the ingredients for a fast-paced and fun mystery by author Liz Stauffer.
The tale builds when local policeman Charlie Allen (who is investigating his first murder) takes the unconventional approach of calling upon the Breakfast Club members to help him solve the crimes. Soon, amidst casseroles, pastries, tea and coffee, an oh-so-civilized group of citizens begins interviewing each other and trying to restore their peaceful village to normalcy, all the while not knowing which of their neighbors to suspect. In fact, it’s one of the townspeople who dubs the weekly gathering the Thursday Morning Breakfast (and Murder) Club during this time.
Author Stauffer has a delightful way of weaving elements of humor with murder. With a knack for dialogue and description, she easily brings her Southern characters to life. In one sense, the book is a lighthearted reading experience. but she also is fully adept at delivering on the suspenseful elements of this crime spree and keeping readers on edge, waiting for the murders to be solved. She’s spent a career as a writer of everything from political encyclopedias to software manuals, but it seems certain she is set to become a staple in the lives of cozy mystery readers, since this is the first book in a planned series.
Published simultaneously as a review on http://www.bookpleasures.com.