Genre: cozy mystery
Where there's smoke...
Katie Bonner, the reluctant manager of Artisans Alley in the quaint shopping district of Victoria Square, is no stranger to ambivalence. Things have been going hot and heavy with pizza maker Andy Rust - so much so that Katie has moved in over his pizza parlor. But now that summer's ushered in a heat wave, an apartment above pizza ovens without an air conditioner is making Katie hot and bothered.
At the height of the heat wave, a tragic fire strikes Victoria Square. Wood U, a small store selling wooden gifts and small furniture, is destroyed. But the fire may just be a smoke screen - for murder. A body is found among the charred wreckage, and the victim didn't die from smoke inhalation. He was shot. Now - despite making Detective Ray Davenport hot under the collar - Katie is determined to smoke out a coldhearted killer...
There is a heat wave going on, and Katie is really suffering. Not only does the ancient air-conditioning in her office at Artisans Alley not work as it should, one part of the building is freezing cold, the other is suffocating hot. Also the apartment she is renting from her boyfriend, above his pizza parlor, is also overheated. The ancient electrical wiring can’t handle a big airco unit. Katie can’t afford to have the airco at the Artisan’s Alley repaired, or rather, installed again. She is still busy paying of the loans the previous owner took out. Or rather, she could pay for it, if she would sell the stuff she has in storage.
Katie’s dream has always been to open her own Bed and Breakfast, and she has the perfect place in mind, the old Webster Mansion. But as her late husband invested all their life savings in the Artisans Alley, there is no way she will ever be able to afford the Mansion. But a woman can dream, can’t she? She has been buying antiques and other items to furnish the place with, for years. Even though storage costs are mounting, she just cannot part with the items she so lovingly collected. But now the mansion has been sold again, and the new owners have the same ideas about the place that Katie has perfected over the years.
Katie’s friend Seth is the local lawyer, and is like an older brother to Katie. He knows the new owners, and thinks they will become good friends. And as Katie really cannot afford to buy the Webster Mansion, isn’t it better that some one else starts caring for it?
Then one evening, Katie spies smoke coming from one of the shops at Victoria Square and runs downstairs to call the firebrigade. The woodwork shop, Wood U, is on fire! Luckily the firebrigade is there quickly and can safe the building and its neighbours. But then a body is discovered inside, and he did not die because of the fire. Unfortunately, as most of the head is missing, a positive identification cannot be made. Is the victim really Dennis Wheeler, the owner? Or is it someone else?
Rumors start flying, and it appears like Dennis, who is a retired school teacher, was hated by a lot of his previous pupils. He was a real nasty man and a bully, so suddenly there are suspects enough to choose from. To Katie’s shock, the investigating Detective Ray Davenport is very friendly towards her, and wants her help to figure out this case. He is going to retire at the end of the week, and he wants to solve the case fast.
Lots of things happen, Katie has to solve the daily problems at the Artisan’s Alley, and help investigate the murder. There is little time to be with her boyfriend Andy, as they have colliding schedules. He works evenings, and she works days. Still, the time they can be together, they appreciate all the more. And Katie also enjoys helping out at the pizza place when it is busy. At least it is cooler than in her apartment …
I really enjoyed this third book in the series; the story grabbed me from the first page. I like Katie a lot, her husband left her behind with a real mess, but she makes the best of things. She is a good manager of Artisan’s Alley, sales have been going up. Still, dealing with all the people problems is not a fun job. And seeing her dream go up in smoke again, that is hard. But in the end, she does make the best decision possible.
Katies relationship with Andy is going slowly, they have not really much time together. Andy is a great guy; giving trouble making teens a chance to make something of themselves by mentoring them and giving them work in his pizza parlor. He has a great success rate, but this time he might have a failure on his hands, which is not easy for him to deal with.
The mystery plot is complicated, with lots of leads and possibilities. Katie is smart, and figures it all out. I did like the change in Detective Davenport; he is really human in this book. And though he is retired now, we will see more of him in the coming books, thanks to his new occupation. I liked “meeting” his daughters and seeing a more personal side to him.
I am already looking forward to the next book in the series. I do recommend this series to all lovers of cozy mysteries.
© 2013 Reviews by Aurian