Thursday, January 21, 2016

Plantation Shudders: A Cajun Country Mystery

Author:  Ellen Byron
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Paperback; Ebook; Audiobook
ISBN #:  9781629532509; 9781629538242
Crooked Lane Books
288 Pages
$21.20; $7.99; $9.89; $27.29 Amazon
August 11, 2015

Four Stars

It's the end of summer and Prodigal Daughter Maggie Crozat has returned home to her family's plantation-turned-bed-and-breakfast in Louisiana.  The Crozats have an inn full of guests for the local food festival -- elderly honeymooners, the Cajun Cuties, a mysterious stranger from Texas, a couple of hipster lovebirds, and a trio of Georgia frat boys.  But when the elderly couple keels over dead within minutes of each other -- one from very unnatural causes -- Maggie and the others suddenly become suspects in a murder.

With the help of Bo Durand, the town's handsome new detective, Maggie must investigate to clear her name while holding the family business together at the same time.  And the deeper she digs, the more she wonders: are all of the guests really there for a vacation or do they have ulterior motives?


Magnolia Marie Crozat, known as Maggie, lives in Pelican, Louisiana with her parents and grandmother.  She shares duties at the Crozat Plantation, now a B&B, and working as a guide at the Doucet Plantation, which gives tours.

At this time, the B&B is full, with a young couple, a family of Australians, a pair of elderly honeymooners, three college boys from Georgia, a wealthy Texan, and the Cajun Cuties, a group of women who come to Louisiana every year for a vacation.  The night after the honeymooners arrive, they both die - the husband from old age and it is later discovered the wife due to poisoning.  But who would poison an elderly woman that nobody knew?

The local sheriff, Rufus Durant, has a grudge against the Crozats due to a curse placed on his family many, many years ago, and would do anything to see them destroyed, even if it means ruining their B&B or putting any of them in jail.  But his cousin Bo is the newly appointed homicide detective, and he's not so sure they had anything to do with the murder.

As Maggie realizes the longer the investigation takes, the more it's going to cost her family financially, since they now have to comp the 'suspects' their vacations in order to keep their business.  And when it becomes apparent that Rufus is going to stonewall every chance he gets, she decides to do whatever it takes to solve the mystery herself.

For a first effort, this book is nicely done.  It's not heavy reading by any account, but still a decent mystery and plenty of suspects to go around.  The plot was interesting and the clues were woven nicely throughout.

But the reason I had to give it four stars instead of five was for a couple of things.  Try as I might, I didn't understand the over-the-top unlikable sheriff.  Rufus stymies a homicide investigation?  And getting away with it?  Even in a small town where everyone everyone knows everyone, I have a hard time believing that he just kept getting elected sheriff and everyone was fine with that.  He was so unlikable a character that I wouldn't take it amiss if he were run over by his own people in a future book.  He had no redeeming qualities and I wouldn't have been surprised if he was the murderer.  Unfortunately for me, his character took away enjoyment in the book every time he showed up.  

The last thing I didn't understand was why the B&B was providing all of the meals instead of just breakfast.  It's called a Bed & Breakfast, not a Bed & All Meals.  Even if they were comping rooms to the guests, if they were strapped for cash, they wouldn't offer all meals free, too.  By doing that, they lost a little sympathy. 


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