Two old friends decide to try vacationing together with a trip to Maine and find themselves jump-starting their amateur sleuthing careers.
In Gutcheon’s (Gossip, 2012, etc.) start to a new series, Maggie Detweiler and Hope Babbin head to the Oquossoc Mountain Inn for a cooking course, a retreat for Maggie after her husband’s death. For Hope, it’s a chance to spy on her estranged son, Buster, who happens to be the resident deputy sheriff. Buster wants to stay far away from the pair, but this proves impossible when the wealthy Antippas family shows up at the inn. Patriarch Alexander treats owner Gabriel Gurrell with disdain and continues to make enemies as he insults Chef Sarah’s food and gets Cherry Weaver, the front desk girl, fired. Alexander is revealed as the father of pop sensation Artemis when news hits that she’s killed herself after being arrested. Tragedy strikes again just days later when a fire breaks out and Alexander dies in the blaze. Sure, he was known to smoke in his room, but evidence at the scene suggests foul play is likely. With all the enemies he’s made, there’s a wealth of motivation to go around. Alternating between solving a jigsaw puzzle and digging into their fellow lodgers' back stories, Hope and Maggie put the pieces together in more ways than one, fulfilling Buster’s worst fears of meddling: he “thought about telling them he couldn’t discuss it, but into his head flashed the image of…torture.” Besides our sleuths (who are themselves hard to tell apart), characters as well as certain plot points fade into obscurity. Tension does build in the final pages, paving the way for future installments—though readers might be fine with saying goodbye to these characters here.
You might fall pleasantly into Gutcheon’s narrative rhythm, but don’t expect this story to stay with you long.