It’s Valentine’s Day in Notchey Creek, Tennessee, and whiskey distiller Harley Henrickson is volunteering at the Reading is Love Festival. Books line the streets, snowflakes dapple the air, and paper hearts adorn storefront windows. Even Harley’s pet pig, Matilda, feels festive, gracing the sidewalks in her Cupid costume. But no sooner have the festivities begun, when Harley finds the charred remains of a car and a body outside Briarwood Park.
While Sheriff Jeff Turner is initially convinced the fire was an accident, Harley suspects something more sinister. When a much-disliked editor of the town’s newspaper is murdered, and Harley’s best friend, Tina Rizchek, is framed for the crime, Harley decides to investigate. A trail of poison-pen letters, car fires, lethal cupcakes, secret affairs, and blackmail leads Harley to the town’s new bookstore and a handsome graduate student who has come to Notchey Creek under mysterious circumstances.
In the meantime, Harley has her hands full in other areas: She’s pet sitting Beau Arson’s rescue dog, Ozzy, while Beau is in L.A.. Aunt Wilma and Opha Mae are determined to get her a date for Valentine’s Day. Uncle Tater and Floyd have entered the bachelor auction. Jed is in an especially foul mood. Grandma Ziegler and Petie are philosophising about the finer points of Pride and Prejudice. And Harley feels the pull of her heartstrings when she learns Eric Winston is single again.
Source: NetGalley and Little Forest Press Rating: 4/5 stars
The Bottom Line: I am finding that any time I get to return to Notchey Creek and Harley Henrickson’s world, I am quite delighted. Andrews has created a wonderfully quirky little town with unique and strong characters that keep wanting more. IN just three books, Harley has evolved so much, and I quite demand that kind of growth out of my characters. Harley’s involvement in each new crime has allowed her to spread her social wings, stretch her considerable intellect, and help a community she dearly loves. When you add in a pig, her ridiculous best friend, her own family, and the various other characters around town, you get a recipe for success. I am also still enjoying the one step above cozy mystery vibe to each plot. The plots are a bit darker and just a smidge more intense than your average cozy and that allows this series to stand apart from the hundreds of others in the genre.