As the director of Barton Farm, a living history museum. Kelsey Cambridge is underpaid and underappreciated, but she loves every minute of it. Determined to keep the struggling museum open, she plans to impress Barton Farm's wealthy benefactress, Cynthia Cherry, with a Civil War reenactment on the farm's grounds.
Unfortunately, the first shot in the battle isn't from a period soldier. It's from Cynthia's greedy nephew, Maxwell, who fires a threat at Kelsey to cut the museum's funding. The next morning, things go from bad to worse when Kelsey discovers Maxwell dead. Now Kelsey is the number one suspect, and she must start her own investigation to save Barton Farm...and herself.
Kelsey Cambridge, director of Barton Farm, is in the beginning of a Civil War reenactment on the farm when she is visited by her benefactress, Cynthia Cherry; Cynthia's nephew, Maxwell, and Maxwell's fiance, Portia. Maxwell takes Kelsey aside and tells her that when he has control of Cynthia's money he's going to cut off funding to the farm, which which naturally sends a little bit of panic through Kelsey.
So when Maxwell is found dead the next morning in the brick-making pit, stung by bees (which he was highly allergic to) Kelsey is accused of the murder. Never mind that there was another person in the pit ahead of her - Chase Wyatt, a paramedic who is also part of the reenactment - but because she was seen talking to Maxwell, she's the guilty party. So now Kelsey must find the real murderer in order to stay out of jail.
Kelsey lives with her young son, Hayden, and her father, who is a Shakespearean actor and who is also taking part in the reenactment. So when the murder occurs, her ex-husband Eddie shows up - with his fiancee - and wants to take Hayden to stay with him until it's over. This, of course, doesn't sit well with Kelsey, but she knows it's the best thing for Hayden right now.
I must tell you ahead of time (and there are those of you who already know) that I'm very well-versed in the Civil War (my husband just mentioned a couple of days ago that if I talked with an author about it, I could probably correct him on any errors he'd make.) So any book that has anything remotely to do with it, I'm on board. Which is why I was eager to read the book. And I didn't expect it to be historically accurate. I tell you this because I am sure someone will comment on it eventually, and I want to remind them ahead of time that this is not an historical story; it is a mystery, and a very good one, centered around a Civil War reenactment. It does not have to be an accurate reenactment to be a good mystery; and that it is.
The descriptions of the battles are sparse, but the relationships between the two sides is accurate: the Union/Confederate alliances with their groups are spot-on, as everyone stays in character, and for this weekend, they are the opposing forces. They eat, sleep, and fight on the battlefield much as it was originally (although they are not using deadly ammunition this time.) The only break, as it were, is from Chase's Uncle Duffy, a general in the Union army and New Hartford police chief, who must do double duty, trying to solve a murder while "fighting a battle." I enjoyed the fact that this police chief is always one step ahead of Kelsey; when she brings him information, he already knows. A competent chief who knows his job is always nice to see.
While I guessed the identity of the killer (I often do) before Kelsey herself, it was a delightful path to take watching her question (not always subtly) people to try and get to the heart of the matter. Yet even when another murder occurs, and things escalate from there, Kelsey does not give up, all the while dealing with problems with Eddie, a reclusive employee named Jason, Chase's pursuit of Kelsey, and a female police detective who makes no bones about the fact she doesn't like her at all.
I would have liked to have known more about Jason and Shepley, the gardener, but I imagine the author is keeping that for the next book in the series. Yet in the end it all came about, as it is supposed to, and I look forward to reading the next installment. Recommended.