If you're looking for an atmospheric mystery with two spirited amateur sleuths, you can't go wrong with Terrie Farley Moran's Caught Read-Handed. The first in this series, Well Read, Then Dead, won the Agatha Award for Best First Novel. The new mystery is even more polished.
Sassy Cabot and Bridgy Mayfield are best friends who own Read 'Em and Eat, a bookstore cafe in Fort Myers Beach, Florida. They've only been there for three years, but they fit in the local community. So, it was natural for Sassy to take some used books to the public library for the fundraising book sale. But, it was unusual to find a woman screaming in the library. Tanya Lipscome, known to the library staff as "Tanya Trouble", was the volunteer who was hollering at a hapless homeless vet. When Sassy saw the man, Alan, fleeing the library, she thought he reminded her of her former boss, George Mersky, and discovered Alan was his brother. But, before George could arrive, looking to help his brother, Alan was arrested for killing Tanya Trouble. Sassy and Bridgy will have to call on an entire community of friends to help Alan, and to find the real killer.
Moran brings together an engaging cast of quirky friends, beginning with Sassy, Bridgy, and Bridgy's Aunt Ophie. And, she manages to develop a strong sense of place, bringing Fort Myers Beach to life with its close-knit community and characters who care deeply about the environment. There's a wonderful battle over the disposition of an anaconda that threatens to divide the town.
But, people are united in the battle to assist a veteran suffering from PTSD. Moran skillfully provides information about those veterans and their battle, introducing a man who served three tours in Iraq and suffers after his last tour. She discusses the veterans, church groups trying to assist them, methods used to work with veterans suffering from PTSD. Although this is a cozy mystery, Moran and her amateur sleuths never forget there are actually two victims in this case, the actual murder victim, and a helpless vet who has been set up as the fall guy.
Once again, Terrie Farley Moran has given us an enjoyable mystery that plunks the reader down in one of Florida's charming towns. To make it even better, there's the discussion of books and a cozy small town cafe. There's no better atmosphere than Fort Myers Beach and the hometown cafe, Read 'Em and Eat, in Moran's latest, Caught Read-Handed.
Terrie Farley Moran's website is www.terriefarleymoran.com
Caught Read-Handed by Terrie Farley Moran. Berkley Prime Crime. 2015. ISBN 9780425270295 (paperback), 292p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.