3.5 of 5 stars to Morgan C. Talbot‘sSmugglers & Scones, her “Moorehaven Mysteries” series debut. The author and I connected via Goodreads, and I was interested in picking up a new series, thus leading me to this one. It has a good start with a lot of potential for future books. On to the detail…
Pippa becomes responsible for a seaside Oregon bed and breakfast that her uncle inherited, and he gifted her while he was still alive. But there’s a twist… the b&b is meant only for authors who need a getaway to write a few chapters or an entire mystery novel; it’s not for regular guests. As Pippa serves as hostess, she finds herself connected and embroiled in all sorts of plots, eventually inducted into the small town’s gossip group who keep in touch on all the goings-on about the seaside village. When Pippa saves a man about to die when his boat hits the coastline, she finds herself falling for him, only to learn another man died on the boat from a vicious blow to the head. Was there a fall-out between the two? Were they hunting for the town’s lost treasure? Or were they looking for the hidden speakeasy from Prohibition Days in one of the town’s buildings? Another townie ends up murdered followed by some interesting new family connections, leading Pippa into the middle of very disconcerting mystery. As she begins to unravel the plot by using the original inn’s owner’s actual mystery novels, she realizes who has the most to gain from everyone’s loss… finding the killer just in time before someone close to her meets his or her maker.
1. At the center of the novel is the character A. Raymond Moore, a mystery writer and the original owner of the b&b Pippa now owns, who has been dead for many years. But through the very-real b&b backdrop, people’s memories and his mystery novels, he feels like one of the main characters. And it’s a cool concept… you are almost sad he’s not alive to interact with everyone, but glad he plays such a huge role. I hope it stays that way in future books.
2. The story is strong. Rum-runners from Prohibition days. Real life murders happening in the late author’s mystery novels. Romance that could be deadly. Surprising family connections that are part of the puzzle. It feels real, never contrived. You have a few parts of the puzzle to solve, not just the traditional who/what/where/why of the murder.
For a debut novel, it is a good entry. At first, it was a little slow given that all the characters had to be introduced, as well as the story about why authors have to stay at the b&b, how it was given to Pippa, what her life was before running the seaside b&b, etc. There was a lot going on and I wasn’t sure which piece to get the most invested in. But by about 15% in, you’re connected and find lots of great moments and appeal. All the characters, besides Pippa and the late A. Raymond Moore, are interesting, but they felt a little too background for me. I wanted a few more to rise to the top and play a larger role, at least to help me identify which ones were important for future books. None of this is really negative, just open questions about where the series will go; and in a way, it’s a nice mystery of its own — to see how the author chooses to integrate them into the future. I’m connected and want to know.
I will definitely read another book by the author. The writing is clear, direct and good. Very typical cozy, but has a certain charm with the whole story behind the b&b. I’ve read a few b&b series and I was afraid this one might feel like many of the others — too similar, but it has some unique qualities that could give the future stories a lot of pull and complexity. Take a chance on this one.