IF FRIED CHICKEN COULD FLY


By Paige Shelton

Berkley Prime Crime, 2012 ($7.99)

ISBN-13: 978-0-425-24585-9

Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel

Isabelle "Betts" Winston, a law school dropout, has returned to her hometown of Broken Rope, Missouri, to help her grandmother run her country cooking school. Missouri Anna Winston dishes up good old down home favorites, and plenty of people are willing to pay for the privilege of learning from her. Broken Rope is known for its history of gunfights, wild cowboys, bank robbers and frontier justice, but it's still an unpleasant surprise when a body is found in the cooking school storage room.

Betts is in for another surprise when one of the policemen who come to investigate the crime is her high school boyfriend. She hasn't seen him in years, but she never stopped loving him, and she has been unable to move on. He had no problem moving on himself, becoming an architect, marrying a medical student, and living the good life in San Francisco. She's wondering why he's made such drastic changes in his life, and why he seems to think they can go back to what they were. She's also pretty angry that he and the police chief, a man she and her grandmother have known for years, suspect her grandmother of murder and clap her in jail.

There are rumors that the murdered man was searching for a treasure hidden by a long-ago bank robber. Others take up the search, while Betts and her friends, assisted by Missouri Anna's unlikely guardian angel, work to find the real killer. Using history, genealogy, family secrets, and lots of good eats, they doggedly pursue the truth.

This is the first in the Country Cooking School mystery series, and it is great fun. There's lots of colorful small town flavor, a snappy cast of characters, and a wicked puzzle of a plot. The author also has three titles in the Farmers' Market Mysteries series.

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