Paige Shelton is the author of the bestselling Farmers’ Market mystery series. However, she just launched a new series, the Country Cooking School mysteries, and I liked the first one in this series, If Fried Chicken Could Fly, even more than her other books. If you follow this blog regularly, you know I read for character. If Fried Chicken Could Fly has terrific characters, including a wonderful ghost, and a perfect setting for a series involving ghosts.
Betts (Isabelle) Winston launches into her description of the murder investigation in the opening paragraph. “If the items in the cast-iron skillet hadn’t burst into flames just as Gram was dunking the coated chicken breast into the hot bubbling grease, we might not have found the dead body so soon.” Betts and her grandmother, Missouri Anna Winston, known as Miz or Gram, run a cooking school in Broken Rope, Missouri. The night students are preparing to judge the annual cook-off when the fire starts, so they are all sent home. It’s only when they go hunting for cleaning supplies that Betts and Gram find the body of Everett Morningside, the man Gram was supposed to meet up with after work. When Everett’s wife shows up, accusing Gram of killing her husband, the police lock Gram up.
And, Gram isn’t being very cooperative. Betts, a law school drop-out, knows enough to get her the best attorney in town. In the meantime, Betts turns to her best friend, Jake Swanson, the local historian, for help in digging into the issue. Nothing is simple in this case. Gram won’t talk. The ghost of a bank robber shows up, seen only by Gram and Betts, and it’s his past that seems to be a driving force in the murder. And, Betts’ old high school sweetheart has returned to town just in time to join the police force, and work on the investigation. Betts started out by trying to help Gram, but, with “Old treasures, dead bank robbers, contortionists….It was only getting more outrageous, not less.”
The whole plot, including the ghost, might sound outrageous, but it works as well as the cooking school and the recipes for comfort food. Perhaps it’s due to the setting. Broken Rope, Missouri celebrates its past, the gruesome stories and odd tales of death. There were knife battles, gunfights, and hangings. Now, the past brings tourists to town, and it’s the base of the economy. With such a violent past, it somehow seems logical that ghosts would be hanging around.
And, Betts, with her interesting family and friends, is the perfect narrator for this story. She may be an amateur sleuth, but, with her grandmother arrested the week of the cook-off, she has a reason to get involved in the case. And, there’s that ghost hanging around, trying to help her, while needing help himself. How can Betts turn down a good-looking needy ghost?
Settle in to read about Broken Rope, its history, its ghosts and citizens, and a murder. Enjoy the discussion of comfort food, and the recipes for fried chicken, Champagne cookies and red velvet cake. Paige Shelton’s If Fried Chicken Could Fly is mystery comfort food.
Paige Shelton’s website is www.paigeshelton.com
If Fried Chicken Could Fly by Paige Shelton. Berkley Prime Crime. ©2012. ISBN 9780425245859 (paperback), 296p.
FTC Full Disclosure – The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.