Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Buzz Off - Hannah Reed

Buzz Off
A Queen Bee Mystery
Hannah Reed
Berkley Prime Crime


I don’t like bees. I’m allergic to them, and I think they know it. Having said that, I could not have been more surprised that I really enjoyed this mystery, centering on an amateur beekeeper in a small town in Wisconsin.

The town is so small that everyone knows everyone and gossip moves faster than the breath it takes to spread it. Story Fischer’s goal in high school was to leave tiny Moraine, Wisconsin, and see the world. She got as far as Milwaukee, ended up married to a charming guy who cheated on her, moved back home, opened a small grocery store, and wound up divorced. Even though Story and Clay are divorced, they live next door to each other. Not that distance would really put a damper on his social life.

For the past year, Story worked with Manny Chapman, learning to keep bees and harvest honey. She learned that (contrary to my beliefs) honeybees are docile and don’t attack unless threatened. Imagine her shock when she hears that Manny was stung to death in his own yard by his own bees. Of course, the town council wants those bees gone, but Story wants to save them. She knows they didn’t do it, and she really wants to save them. That means she’s going to have to prove to the whole town that the bees are innocent. That should be simple.

Just after Manny’s death, Clay’s new paramour winds up drowned in the river. In Story’s kayak. The police chief, a former high school bully, immediately suspects Story, since she was connected to both people. Now she has to prove her own innocence while trying to save the bees. All over the loud objections of many of the townspeople, including her mother.

As the first in a new series, this is a real winner. Story (real name: Melissa) comes across as very realistic. She’s moved back to her hometown and opened her own small business. She’s getting on with her life after an embarrassing divorce. And she really loves bees. She loves bullet points, too, and uses them frequently to make her arguments. It’s a pretty effective strategy. The town is very small, and everyone knows everyone’s business, except when it comes to these murders. There are several people who look like great suspects for one of the murders, but tying them together is more difficult. The story moves along swiftly and the author manages to craft an interesting mystery while still evolving the characters. I still can’t say I’m a big fan of bees, but I’m in for more adventures with Story and her honey-making friends.

Rating: 7 ½
September 2010
ISBN# 978-0-425-23642-0 (paperback)


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