Caught Read-Handed by Terrie Farley Moran is the second in the Read ’Em and Eat cozy mystery series set in the quirky Florida town of Fort Myers Beach (available July 7, 2015).
Sassy and Bridgy are at it again in the second book in Terrie Farley Moran’s mystery series about a café complete with bookshop and multiple reading groups, sticking their noses into places where—at least in the opinions of Fort Myers Beach’s finest—they most decidedly do not belong. Although this installment retains the humor of the first, it touches on more serious topics as well, as the chief suspect in the murder of a local troublemaker is a mostly homeless vet with PTSD.
Sassy becomes involved in the investigation because she sees the veteran on a trip to the library and realizes he is related to her former boss. When he becomes a suspect, she naturally has to intervene!
This novel is full of food, family, and local color. And, of course, life in a book-themed café.
Bridgy and Owen moved the Barbara Cartland table alongside the Hammett so everyone could sit together. […] While I poured the tea, Bridgy went into the kitchen and came out with a plate in each hand. One palate was piled high with Miguel’s famous Cuban sandwiches stuffed with roast pork, cheese, and thinly sliced dill pickles. The other was loaded with Swiss Family Robinson cheeseburgers. She set the plates down and scrambled into the kitchen only to come back with an enormous bowl of My Secret Garden salad. I grabbed lunch plates and salad bowls from behind the counter and set them out accordingly.
Make no mistake, you will get hungry reading this book, so have plenty of snacks on hand while you do.
As part of the mystery, there’s a lawsuit that only people who’ve lived in resort communities would believe. I grew up in a spot much like Fort Myers Beach, and our local free paper used to have a “lawsuit watch” column that consisted of things like one neighbor suing another over the height of a chimney interfering with a beach view. Moran treats the lawsuit with all the seriousness it deserves in this book (after all, it might turn out to be grounds for murder!), but reading it I found myself giggling a little. The same is true of one of the subplots of the book…a snake (of the no-legged, not two-legged) variety loose in the community.
Miguel stood, reached under his apron, and pulled out a folded scrap of news-sheet from his pocket. He spread it on the table. “A giant green anaconda has been spotted swimming, happy as you please, in Estero Bay between Mound Island and San Carlos Island. He’s huge. He swims very fast. And my hard borders Estero Bay. Every day my pretty Bow scampers along the edge of the bay exploring the mangrove roots, sea grapes, and swamp grass. She swats and tree craps, chases those tiny green lizards. Once she found a giant sea turtle she tapped and tapped on the shell. She thought she was inviting the turtle out to play, but the more she tapped, the more the turtle refused.” Miguel smiled broadly at the memory, and then he swiftly returned to the present. “That area beside my house is her playground. As long as the snake is in the bay, who knows where he will turn up next? My Bow is in great danger. Every pet on the island is in danger.”
Now, I don’t want tangle with a snake myself, but Moran’s light touch means that the snake scenes are charming rather than horrifying.
As well as the lawsuit and the victim’s general unpleasantness, there are a number of other reasons people might have wanted to kill her, all of which leave both Sassy and the reader with far too many suspects. Things get a little chaotic (as they are wont to do around Sassy and Bridgy), but there’s nothing a careful reader cannot follow. Just plenty of red herrings to throw back into the bay at the end of the story. All in all, a lovely return to the community of 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.