Well Read, Then Dead by Terrie Farley Moran is the first book in the Read ’Em and Eat cozy mystery series (available August 5, 2014).
I picked up Well Read, Then Dead having read several of Terrie Farley Moran’s short crime stories and curious about how she would handle the longer format. Immediately, I was drawn into the world of Sassy Cabot and Bridget Mayfield and their bookstore and bakery, Read ’Em and Eat in Fort Myers Beach, Florida. I went to Florida [mumble] years ago, but I’ve never been to Fort Myers Beach, but this book definitely made me want to visit!
It’s not just the scenery one wants to visit reading Ms. Moran’s book. Her characters are amusing and lively, described clearly without overly many tedious details. Take Judge Harcroft, who spends his mornings at the Read ’Em and Eat and being, well, somewhat annoying, especially to the Books Before Breakfast Club.
His erect posture, immaculate white collared shirt and impeccably groomed, albeit thinning, gray hair gave the impression that he was merely on a short break from presiding over a momentous, legally significant trial, instead of being retired from traffic court for less than a year.
You don’t need much more than that to figure out what kind of a man Harcroft’s apt to be. There are also the ladies of the book club—Jocelyn Kendall, “pastor’s wife and book club gadfly,” Rowena Gustavsen, Lisette Ortiz, Augusta Maddox (“you’d expect Augusta Maddox to chirp like a parakeet [but] her thunderous baritone bounced off every surface in the room”), and the painfully shy Delia Batson.
When Delia is murdered, however, the gentle amusements and minor disturbances of oceanside living take a turn for the dark. Suddenly, all the familiar faces around Sassy take on a more nefarious cast. It also brings Sassy—who is enlisted by Augusta to help find Delia’s murderer—into contact, even conflict, with a number of islanders and outsiders she’s never met.
Of course, not all the new people in her life are bad. Even the ones who rub her decidedly the wrong way, like new-to-the-Sheriff’s-Department Lieutenant Frank Anthony. At first meeting, before he starts interrogating her and all her friends, Sassy thinks he’s hot. (Well, okay, she always thinks he’s hot, even when he’s irritating the snot out of her.)
“Ah, the chef with the broken leg. How could I forget? After all, that’s when you and I first met.” And there it was again: the wide, smirky smile and the crinkly eyes. I didn’t miss that his tone of voice made it sound like this was the story he was saving to tell our grandkids. Was that a sneaky interrogation technique he used on female suspects?
He leaned toward me, and clasping his hands, he rested his forearms on his knees. He seemed to be waiting for me to say something. And then I remembered I did have something to say. Something guaranteed to throw him off his game—whatever the game was.
“That was also the morning Augusta had words with two young wreckers who stopped in for breakfast. Delia was with her.”
He straightened instantly, his whole demeanor changing back to nononsense official.
Then there’s Cady, the reporter, who’s also attractive, and not nearly so irksome. Cady has the inside scoop on what’s happening with Delia’s murder, and if Sassy just has to spend a little time with him to get that information, so be it.
So what with two men, several quarrelsome and nosy ladies, two businesses to run, and a murder to solve, Sassy has her hands full! Sure, she gets help but this is really her story. I had a great time meeting all these characters and getting to know the surroundings and the shop, and I can’t wait for my next trip back to Fort Myers Beach!
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Laura K. Curtis lives in Westchester, NY, with her husband and two madcap Irish Terriers who’ve taught her how easily love can co-exist with the desire to kill. She can also be found at Women of Mystery and on Twitter.