Book Review: Death at Breakfast by Beth Gutcheon

Death at Breakfast by Beth Gutcheon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Publisher: William Morrow

Summary:  Indulging their pleasure in travel and new experiences, recently retired private school head Maggie Detweiler and her old friend, socialite Hope Babbin, are heading to Maine. The trip—to attend a weeklong master cooking class at the picturesque Victorian-era Oquossoc Mountain Inn—is an experiment to test their compatibility for future expeditions.

Hope and Maggie have barely finished their first aperitifs when the inn’s tranquility is shattered by the arrival of Alexander and Lisa Antippas and Lisa’s actress sister, Glory. Imperious and rude, these Hollywood one-percenters quickly turn the inn upside-down with their demanding behavior, igniting a flurry of speculation and gossip among staff and guests alike.

But the disruption soon turns deadly. After a suspicious late-night fire is brought under control, Alex’s charred body is found in the ashes. Enter the town’s deputy sheriff, Buster Babbin, Hope’s long-estranged son and Maggie’s former student. A man who’s finally found his footing in life, Buster needs a win. But he’s quickly pushed aside by the “big boys,” senior law enforcement and high-powered state’s attorneys who swoop in to make a quick arrest.

Maggie knows that Buster has his deficits and his strengths. She also knows that justice does not always prevail—and that the difference between conviction and exoneration too often depends on lazy police work and the ambitions of prosecutors. She knows too, after a lifetime of observing human nature, that you have a great advantage in doing the right thing if you don’t care who gets the credit or whom you annoy.

Feeling that justice could use a helping hand--as could the deputy sheriff—Maggie and Hope decide that two women of experience equipped with healthy curiosity, plenty of common sense, and a cheerfully cynical sense of humor have a useful role to play in uncovering the truth.

I liked the summary of this from the first so I was glad to get to reading it this week. It was a pretty absorbing and quick read. The murder actually takes place about 40% of the way in. The beginning is a set up for the our main sleuths, Maggie and Hope, the other characters staying at the Inn and also the small town locale. Maggie and Hope are newly retired BFFs who have decided to travel and this is their maiden trip to see if they travel well with one another. Adding to the sleuthing is Hope's deputy sheriff son, Buster. I watch what is likely far more British mystery television than is advisable, so in my head, Maggie and Hope were Rosemary Boxer and Laura Thyme of Rosemary & Thyme, without the accents. I had Hope's son Buster as Laura's officer son, Matthew too. So, I whisked right away with them but they were pretty much tertiary to the solving of the mystery until pretty much the last couple chapters where this all comes together. This makes practical sense, I grant, but it didn't give the reader a lot of time to get to know Maggie & Hope. Still, the case of who killed Alex Antippas turned out predictably & I wasn't surprised by the reveal or reasons of the murderer. All the threads were tied well and I enjoyed how the other characters were woven into the story. I know it's probably not likely but I hope Maggie & Hope run into Detective Prince sometime in the future (I think the Kleinkramers live in LA). The look in at the Antippas family in all their revolting glory was impressive in that there was humanity on display and it was rendered in such a way that made me feel a certain sympathy for people whose lives have become more habitats than habitable for having sought fame. Let me also raise a glass to Walter and I'll pour one out for Grommet.

I thought this was a standalone when I began but by book's end, I was fairly sure this was the first in a series. I'm looking forward to the next visit with Maggie and Hope. Definitely recommended & not a bad choice for summer reading.

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