Amanda Flowers caught my attention when she told me her mystery series featured a librarian on a college campus in northeastern Ohio. Some of those are my trigger words; librarian, northeastern Ohio, and mystery. I was definitely interested in trying her second India Hayes mystery, Murder in a Basket.
India Hayes is a college librarian at Martin College in Stripling, Ohio, just north of Akron. And, in that section of the country, October is a beautiful time to hold a festival. India, a struggling artist as well as a librarian, is coerced into running the face painting booth at the Stripling Founders’ Festival. Her sister, Carmen, is a powerful force, and she’s chair of the festival this year. Carmen even forced her to wear a pink gingham pioneer dress, so India is embarrassed when she sees the other artists and vendors wearing tee shirts. Fortunately, she finds a friendly artist in the adjoining booth. Tess Ross seems to be an easy-going basket weaver who can even force Carmen to back down when she objects to the presence of Tess’ dog, Zach.
But, someone had a problem with Tess. When India rushes back to her booth later that evening, realizing she left a money bag there, she finds Tess’ body. And, in a small community, there are complicated connections, and a number of suspects. It seems Tess was the trustee for Zach, a two million dollar dog. And, Tess’ brother, the college provost, wasn’t happy with her. She had fought with her husband, a blacksmith. A beader was mad at her. Only Tess’ son, Derek, seemed to care enough to ask India to nose around to find out who killed his mother. And, Derek, a student aide at the library, had been bothering India there for quite a while. He might not have the right distance about his mother’s murder. Despite her mixed feelings about Derek, India agrees to look into his mother’s death, since she had already uncovered one killer.
As I said, Amanda Flower enticed me with her book because of her setting in northeastern Ohio. I recognized the description of the area, and its history, one that has a common history with my hometown. It was fun to travel there in festival season, in October with its leaves, crispness, and Halloween.
India made a delightful amateur sleuth, and the mystery was enjoyable, although the actual killer seemed to come out of nowhere. But, anyone who follows this blog knows how much I enjoy interesting characters. This book certainly is full of characters, beginning with India’s own family. India’s mother is a Presbyterian minister, and her father is in a wheelchair. They’re activists, reformers who know how to work the media in a good fight for their causes. They’ve about given up on their children. Carmen inherited her mother’s powerful presence, but she uses her influence in other ways. India’s brother is traveling the world, and India is a respectable member of academia. Or as respectable as “A crime-solving librarian” can be. Then there’s India’s sidekick, her landlady, Ina Carroll, a true loose cannon. Add two interesting cats, and a dog worth two million dollars, and Flower’s cast is a treat for anyone who enjoys eccentric characters.
When Kirkus Reviews reviewed Flower’s first mystery, Maid of Murder, they mentioned Donna Andrews’ Meg Langslow mysteries. I think they’re right. If you enjoy Meg’s eccentric characters, you might want to step into India Hayes’ world in Murder in a Basket.
Amanda Flower’s website is www.amandaflower.com.
Murder in a Basket by Amanda Flower. Five Star Publishing. ©2012. ISBN 9781432825676 (hardcover), 284p.
FTC Full Disclosure – The author sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.