“When Cooking Channel scout Rebecca Adrian travels to the city of Memphis to sample the locally renowned barbecue at Aunt Pat’s, the mild-mannered local denizens are dismayed by the rude attitude of the brash, arrogant television celebrity. Within hours of her arrival, Rebecca’s penchant for boorish, often malicious behavior has alienated Aunt Pat’s loyal patrons and incited more than a few to reach a level of dislike for the food critic that approaches murderous. After sampling Aunt Pat’s famous ribs, Ms. Adrian returns to the Peabody hotel, where she promptly collapses and dies, a victim of poisoning.
As the current proprietor of Aunt Pat’s, Lulu Taylor has a problem on her hands. Not only is the reputation of her restaurant at stake, but several of her friends are potential suspects. Lulu turns amateur sleuth in an effort to ferret out the true criminal, half-afraid someone close to her might be guilty of the crime.
Cozy mystery fans will find Delicious and Suspicious an entertaining read, although some might struggle with the sheer quantity of characters introduced within the first two chapters in order to establish a number of individuals with a motive for murder. The reader is introduced to Lulu Taylor, her daughter-in-law Sara, Lulu’s sons Ben and Seb, Lulu’s granddaughters Coco and Ella Beth, the town eccentric Mildred, friends Evelyn, Cherry, Peggy Sue, and Jeanne, and local art gallery owner Susan Meredith. Added to the mix are troubled teen Derrick, ex-con Flo, and a trio of elderly gentlemen who appear to be fixtures at the restaurant, Big Ben, Buddy, and Morty.
Just like the pork barbecue and spicy corn muffins that fill the bellies of the fictitious patrons of Aunt Pat’s, the Southern flavor is what makes this novel unique. The characters live and breathe on the page, not as stereotypes of Southerners but as colorful personalities that complement the Memphis setting. The sheer volume of red herrings planted early on will not deter the experienced mystery reader from drawing the logical conclusion regarding the identity of the murderer, however, half the enjoyment in reading Delicious and Suspicious is getting there.
Delicious and Suspicious is the first novel in the Memphis BBQ Mystery series. The author also writes cozy mysteries as Elizabeth Spann Craig.