Fresh Meat: Jessica Beck’s Killer Crullers

Killer Crullers by Jessica BeckThese days, so many cozy heroines have antagonistic relationships with their mothers it’s almost a cliché. (Seriously—it’s right up there with “has a cat” and “is dating a cop”.  Neither of which is a bad thing, of course, but still, some variety would be nice. Maybe an amateur sleuth who dates an undertaker and has a pet chinchilla? Anybody?)

Such is not the case, however, with Suzanne Hart, proprietress of Donut Hearts and protagonist of author Jessica Beck’s Donut Shop Mystery series. Suzanne may be dating a state police investigator, but she puts paid to the notion that you have to hate your mama in order to catch your quarry.

In Beck’s latest, Killer Crullers, Suzanne—a divorcee who lives with her mother —is having a devil of a time tracking down the person who shot and killed a man outside her donut shop. The murder investigation, though, is far less vexing to her than her mother’s burgeoning romance with the town’s chief of police:

I was just heading off to bed when I heard a car drive up. I peeked out the window and saw Momma being helped out of the chief’s personal car. Chief Martin had purchased an older sedan specifically so he could take her out on dates without using the squad car or renting a vehicle every time they went out. I moved away from the window and into the hallway by the stairs, because the last thing I wanted to see was the two of them saying good night. I had no idea how long they’d linger on the porch, no matter how much the temperatures had been dipping at night lately.

To my surprise, he didn’t even get a chance to walk her up to the front door. It burst open, and Momma hurried inside, as though she were being chased by a particularly aggressive bear. There was a look on her face I hadn’t seen before: a mix of puzzlement, shock, fear, and unless I was mistaken, a little bit of joy.

“What’s going on?” I asked as I rushed down the stairs to her. “Are you okay?”

“What? Of course I am. What are you still doing up?” Momma asked as she started to regain some of her composure.

“I’m sleeping in tomorrow,” I said. “What happened? Did he get fresh with you?”

Most fictional characters who live with their parents can’t wait to get back out on their own two feet—to move into their own apartment and reclaim the kind of independence and privacy it’s impossible to have when you and your mom share a bathroom and a bedroom wall. Not Suzanne, however:

While Momma went into the kitchen to make coffee—and to call Chief Martin, as well, I was sure—I slumped back down on the couch. I could easily believe the chief had asked her to marry him, and in a way, I was surprised that he hadn’t proposed sooner. He was too eager when it came to my mother, always trying to pull the trigger too quickly. What really surprised me was that my mother was actually considering it. What would that do to us, and our dynamic? I knew one thing. If they got married and the chief moved in—and why would Momma leave our home?—I would have to move out. It wasn’t that I hated him, we’d grown to at least tolerate each other lately, but I wouldn’t intrude on a newlywed couple’s space. The dynamic Momma and I had shared since my divorce would be over, and I feared we’d lose the closeness we’d fought so hard to achieve. It was the nature of the beast, after all. I could see our time together crumbling into a meal every now and then, maybe a movie, but not much else. It shocked me to realize just how much I clung to the fact that Momma and I had become a team, a pair of roommates who shared more than most grown daughters and their mothers.

Her joy would be a time of sadness for me, and I hated myself for thinking of it that way.

Suzanne loves her Momma. It’s her relationship with her mother that grounds her, and that gives her strength and comfort. And not in a creepy Norman Bates kind of way, either:

“If anything changes around here, I think I’ll miss this most of all,” I said.

“What, my cooking?”

“No, just doing everyday things with you. In case you didn’t realize it, I’m a big fan of hanging out with you.”

I looked down at her and saw a tear in the corner of her eye. “Having you here after your divorce has given me a new lease on life,” she said. “If you hadn’t been there pushing me all along the way, I would never have taken a chance on dating again. You’ve helped me remember something about myself that I’d nearly forgotten.”

“I would have fallen apart when Max cheated on me if you hadn’t been there to help me get through it, Momma. I don’t think I’ve ever thanked you enough for that.”

“It’s so lovely that my daughter has turned out to be my best friend, as well,” she said.

Schmaltz isn’t usually my style—I’m a cynic on the very best of days.  The holiday spirit must be rubbing off on me, though, because I find Suzanne’s relationship with her Momma refreshing. Compelling, even.

Not able to spend the holidays with your family? (Or maybe you’re dreading the thought of doing so because you discovered at Thanksgiving that they still have the ability to drive you stark raving mad?) Live vicariously through Jessica Beck’s Suzanne Hart.  She loves her Momma, and she’s not afraid to admit it.

Katrina Niidas Holm loves mysteries. She lives in Maine with her husband, fabulously talented pulp writer Chris F. Holm and a noisy, noisy cat.  She writes reviews for The Season E-Zine and The Maine Suspect, and you can find her on Twitter.


  1. sabrina

    Excellent review, Katrina! The series sounds great for the holidays.

  2. Katrina Niidas Holm

    Thanks, Sabrina! And yes — very appropriate for a season that’s all about family.

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