A Beeline to Murder (A Henny Penny Farmette Mystery)

Image of A Beeline to Murder (A Henny Penny Farmette Mystery)
Release Date: 
September 28, 2015
Reviewed by: 

“genuinely sweet . . .”

If you like your cozy mysteries very cozy, then this new entry into the genre is right for you. It’s got all the signature features: a smart amateur sleuth with a unique occupation; her quaintly eccentric friends; a delightful location; a clever mystery; and lots of details about physical appearance, home, and animals, plus tastebud-tempting recipes.

Welcome Abby Mackenzie, former police officer in Las Flores, California, who retired after an injury to raise bees, flowers, and vegetables on her farmette. But she can’t quite escape her old career, because when she delivers a load of honey to the local bakery, she finds the chef dead on the floor. It appears that he hanged himself—except someone had already cut him down, which suggests murder

Nonetheless, the case is ruled a suicide after the police discover the person who found the body ahead of Abby and can explain the discrepancy. Abby doesn’t buy the story, though. Luckily, she is allowed to satisfy her curiosity and desire for justice when she is hired by the victim’s brother to investigate the closed case.

That brother is a handsome and romantic Frenchman, whose allure Abby struggles to resist while earning her paycheck from him. And while she’s wondering whether she’s losing her heart or her good sense, the rugged and simple farmer down the road—her client’s opposite in all ways—shows signs that he might be losing his heart for her.

Now, for readers who prefer a more-demanding style of cozy mystery, with complex characters and realistic grit, this novel may come across as simplistic and oversweet. They’ll notice, for example, that most characters are stereotypes and some are mean-spiritedly drawn. The time-outs for clothes, makeup, and food—all lovingly described—do little to define character and instead stall the plot. Dialogue at times feels forced, using the “as you know, Bob” technique to convey information to the reader through stilted conversation.

But whichever way your taste runs, read this book for the bees. Although always in the background, as compared to some cozy mysteries where animals are sentient characters who might even speak and solve the crime, the bees give the novel its foundation and framework and a charming individuality. The author knows her bee business, being an apiary owner and market farmer. In fact, she shares her own Henny Penny Farmette business name with Abby, and shares her own recipes for food and health-and-beauty products with the reader, along with garden tips and beekeeping lore.

These elements make the book genuinely sweet and sure to win readers for Abby’s adventures. As A Beeline to Murder is first in a projected series, many more adventures are sure to come.