"This place was crazier than I thought, much weirder than I remember, my family something of a bunch of oddballs with a host of secrets that they would go to great lengths to protect." When Belfast (Bel) McGrath has that realization, she doesn't know the half of it. She, and the reader, are in for a great number of surprises in Maggie McConnon's first Belfast McGrath mystery, Wedding Bel Blues.
Bel left her job as a chef in New York City in disgrace, after a former President of the U.S. found a bone in his snapper. For one month, she hides in an apartment at Shamrock Manor, her parents' home on the Hudson. But, Shamrock Manor caters to weddings and receptions, particularly for the Irish community, and Bel is soon caught up in her cousin's wedding preparations. While her parents host the event, Bel's four older brothers make up the band, and, Bel, as maid of honor, happens to be the one to witness a man fall from the second story balcony. She's also the one who knows that her cousin had one last fling with the dead man two days before the wedding.
Bel's not as good at keeping secrets as others in her family, but she hides the truth about her cousin's fling from the police, especially Kevin Hanson, her old flame from high school. But, she's not too worried about the local police. "I had gotten Kevin through sophomore-year geometry, so I wasn't all that impressed by his ability to incorporate logic into his thinking." But, Bel can bring logic to her questions. She's inquisitive and just brash enough to probe within the family, while also taking over the kitchen for wedding events.
I'd rank Maggie McConnon's Wedding Bel Blues with the best mysteries of Ellery Adams. It's a traditional mystery with characters with depth and secrets. Even Bel has a few mysteries in her past, stories to be explored in future books. McConnon has succeeded beautifully, introducing a large Irish-American family with all their love of music and celebration. But, Bel admits her family only has two emotions when they're together, happiness and anger. It's a complex family with a number of secrets.
Weddings, food, family, music, a little romance. And, of course, murder and secrets going back years. Maggie McConnon has a wealth of material to draw on. Let's hope the other books in the series are as intriguing and fresh as Wedding Bel Blues.
Maggie McConnon, aka Maggie Barbieri has a "soon to be updated" website at www.maggiebarbieri.com
Wedding Bel Blues by Maggie McConnon. St. Martin's Press. 2016. ISBN 9781250001894 (paperback), 304p.
FTC full disclosure - The publicist sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review the book.