Book Review: Death by Committee by Alexis Morgan
By Janet WebbFebruary 5, 2019
In Death by Committee, the first novel in Alexis Morgan’s new Abby McCree mystery series, Abby inherits her aunt’s ramshackle home in Snowberry Creek, Washington only to find a body buried in the backyard.
Death by Committee ticks all the boxes for a new cozy series: a small town with the prerequisite elements (a vibrant community, a police department with a hands-on chief, go-to bakery); a curious, connected newcomer; nosy neighbors; a mysterious yet helpful love interest; a protective pet; and a dead body. Meet Abby McCree, a recent divorcée and loving niece to her elderly Aunt Sybil. When Abby was a child, she and her aunt shared a love of quilting, even planning a personalized quilt for Abby. Sadly, her aunt recently passed on to the Quilting Guild in the sky, but she left Abby her dilapidated mansion in Snowberry Creek, Washington. Abby hasn’t just inherited Aunt Sybil’s massive house, complete with a third-floor room quilting emporium, there’s also Tripp, a “sexy tenant” who doubles as the estate gardener when he’s not at class, who lives in a Grandmother cottage on the overgrown grounds.
Abby’s new life is a far cry from her harried life as a condo-living, small business owner and entrepreneur. Her marriage ended when she discovered her husband and business-partner Chad was cheating on her. Her ex paid Abby half the worth of the company (thanks to a court order) and showed her the door. Abby has the time and the money to settle into Snowberry Creek for a spell and ponder her future.
Her aunt’s quilting guild embrace Abby, although their friendship leads to Abby “inheriting” her aunt’s myriad responsibilities in the town. Accepting a posthumous award honoring Sybil’s civic volunteerism somehow leads to Abby taking her aunt’s seat on the Senior Affairs group. How did that happen?
Abby painstakingly cleans and organizes her Aunt Sybil’s house, hoping to discover her name-sake quilt. She can’t ignore the grounds either, telling Zeke, Aunt Sybil’s animal shelter rescue, a “slobbery Mastiff of questionable pedigree,” that “the heavy growth of blackberries and other weeds,” weren’t “going to prune themselves.” Two hours later, she’s ready to throw in the trowel.
“I hear people around here rent goats to take out blackberries when they’re out of control like this.”
Abby jumped and nearly lost her balance, which would’ve sent her stumbling forward into the blackberries. Two strong hands caught her shoulders and held on just long enough to make sure she was steady on her feet before dropping away. As soon as she was free, Abby whirled around, her heart pounding in her chest as she punched Tripp on the arm.
A punch that hurt her fist a lot more than his hard muscles. Still, she goes down fighting: “Darn it, Tripp, don’t sneak up on a person like that. You scared ten years off my life.” Bring on a flock of black and white goats who chomp down eagerly on blackberries while Tripp and Abby look on in fascination. Why is one of the goats tugging on a piece of fabric? Tripp pries “the fragment out of the goat’s mouth,” tossing it to Abby.
It appeared to be part of a patchwork square, one that looked vaguely familiar. As soon as she spread it out to get a better look at it, she knew why. The dark blue plaid had been part of a dress she’d worn when she was ten, one of several she and Aunt Sybil had cut up to make the quilt she’d been hunting for.
Eureka, the elusive quilt is in the house yard: ““That’s my quilt, all right.” Then she gagged as the breeze shifted in her direction. “Good grief, what’s that awful smell?”” Tripp phones Gage Logan, Snowberry Creek’s chief of police. The body wrapped up in the quilt is Dolly Cahill, Aunt Sybil’s “only known rival.” The local constabulary may consider Abby’s late aunt to be the chief suspect in the murder, but Abby’s convinced that her aunt could never have committed such a heinous crime. Let the amateur snooping begin!
With Death by Committee, Alexis Morgan has created a world that readers will want to revisit: I have lingering questions that I hope will be addressed in the second (and third and fourth…) “Abby McCree Mystery.”