I just love to read the first book in a mystery series by an author I already like, and then discover that the second series is just as good. Victoria Hamilton is the author of the Vintage Kitchen Mysteries. Now, she kicks off the Merry Muffin series with Bran New Death. A brand new set of characters, a brand new fun setting, and a lot of possibilities for future mysteries. One of the highest compliments I can give a book is that I felt satisfied afterwards. Bran New Death is satisfying.
Merry Wynter has lost almost everything. She was once quite well off between her career as a plus-size model, and her marriage. But, she unwisely invested her inheritance from her late husband, and she lost a highly visible job. At thirty-nine, she is desperate to get away from New York City, so she heads to upstate New York to the odd little town of Autumn Vale where she had inherited a castle.
But, the rumors about Merry's new property are almost as odd as the town itself. When she stops in the local bakery, she discovers the owner blames Merry's late Uncle Melvyn for her father's death. And, someone is digging holes all over the grounds surrounding the castle. The grounds and the castle are both going to need some work if Merry is going to sell it. And, even as she has someone filling in the holes during the day, someone else shows up in the bulldozer at night to try to dig holes again. But just because he's found dead in one of those holes doesn't mean Merry, the stranger in town, killed him.
With the arrival of her best friend, Shiloh, Merry has an ally. And, just because the sheriff's mother recruited Merry to make muffins for the local retirement home, it doesn't mean she's in the clear. Instead, she's going to have to ask a few questions, and sift through the town's rumors to ensure that she's not the second Wynter accused of murder.
My sister, Christie, writes short notes to me in which she talks about the cozy mysteries we both like. And, we both complain about characters who are "too stupid to live", and run around investigating while getting in trouble. Merry Wynter is not "too stupid to live". She's a refreshing character, a big woman, a widow, and thirty-nine. The setting is also unusual, an old castle that is perfect for future storylines. Why did I mention Christie? Because she summed this book up beautifully. She read it before me, dropped me a note, and, now, I'm including her comment. "It seems like I write when I complain about a book, so this time I will write and tell you about one I liked. I just finished Bran New Death. It is supposed to be the first in the Merry Muffin series, but the muffins really are a minor part of the story. This didn't quite follow the "formula" and that made it fresh. There is a lot of potential for future books, in fact, it sort of ended with a promise of what is to come and some unanswered questions. There were good characters and she didn't run off and do stupid stuff."
Christie hit the nail on the head. There are a number of different ways this series could go. Bran New Death launches a delectable new series with appealing characters, a charming castle, and appetizing recipes. This one might be even more enticing than the Vintage Kitchen mysteries.
Victoria Hamilton's website is www.victoriahamiltonmysteries.com
Bran New Death by Victoria Hamilton. Berkley Prime Crime. 2013. ISBN 9780425257735 (paperback), 291p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.