Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Murder Gone A-Rye - Nancy J. Parra

Murder Gone A-Rye
A Baker’s Treat Mystery
Nancy J. Parra
Berkley Prime Crime

For most of the country, Thanksgiving means turkey and maybe the Macy’s Parade.  In Oiltop, Kansas, it also means Homer Everett Day, complete with a parade and a carnival.  Homer was a native son who found success on the football field, making it to the pros.  Then he went to war, during which his bravery earned him the Congressional Medal Of Honor.  After all of that, he returned to Oiltop where he was immediately elected mayor.  Today, his large shoes are filled by his son, Hutch.  All of this is to explain why Toni Holmes is working on a parade float as the book opens, instead of baking gluten-free treats at her bakery.
And what would a holiday be without a relative in jail?  Grandma Ruth calls, thrilled that she’s been “arrested” for the murder of Lois Striker, a local woman.  Grandma Ruth is 90 and rides a scooter everywhere.  The police found scooter tire prints near the body.  In truth, Grandma Ruth is only there to be questioned.  She’s never let go of her job as an investigative reporter, so she’s questioning the police right back.  She tells Toni that she’s sure this death has something to do with Homer Everett, who died in the 1970s.  The case was quite cold until Grandma Ruth got ahold of it, and now with Lois’ death, it looks like maybe something is afoot in the small town.
I’m really torn about this book.   On the one hand, the mystery plotline is quite interesting, and not easy to solve, since most of the background happened fifty years prior.  The way the author tells the story is unique, too.  At the outset, various characters are finding out about Lois’ death by word of mouth; exactly as they would, in a small town.  The reader hasn’t met Lois, hasn’t seen the crime scene, and doesn’t even know exactly how she died.  Toni gets pulled into the investigation through the actions of her Grandma Ruth, who claims that her investigation (Ruth’s) of an old crime is what got Lois killed.  This leaves the reader to find more information along with Toni.
If you read my review of GLUTEN FOR PUNISHMENT, you know that I enjoyed Grandma Ruth’s irrepressible nature at that time.  But, if you’ve read here for any length of time, you know that my tolerance for ‘zany’ is quite low.  Sadly, Grandma Ruth has zoomed right past ‘entertinaing,’ and now exists firmly on the ‘whacky’ side of things.  This is too bad, because her continuously escalating antics unfairly divert attention from the plot, and served only to irritate me.  Readers who enjoy this kind of character will obviously have a better time with it than I did.  As I said, the underlying mystery was an interesting and unusual one, with twists happening right up to the end.  There’s a subplot involving a boy and his dog that is most effective and touching without being heavy-handed. There’s enough here for me to like – including some recipes for gluten-free treats – that I’ll be making at least one return trip to Oiltop.
Rating: 6 ½
June 2014
ISBN# 978-0-425-52544-4 (paperback)


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