College librarian and struggling artist India Hayes isn’t sure how her older sister Carmen talked her into managing a face-painting booth at the Stripling, Ohio, Founders’ Day Festival or how Carmen convinced her to wear the pink gingham pioneer dress, including mobcap and granny boots, but that’s where she finds herself in a chilly October just before Halloween. India’s annoyance turns to suspicion as she discovers the body of Zen-like basket weaver, Tess Ross, on the festival grounds. Tess leaves behind an angry blacksmith husband, a confused adopted son, greedy siblings, a dysfunctional artists’ co-op, and a chocolate-colored labradoodle with a two-million-dollar trust in his name. Much to India’s dismay, she learns Tess is the sister of her stuffy college provost, Samuel Lepcheck, and the mother of a library student worker, Derek, who has an irrepressible crush on India that she’s doing her best to ignore. Derek begs India to investigate his mother’s murder. Despite the urgings of handsome Police Detective Rick Mains to stay out of the investigation, India agrees to Derek’s request and finds herself playing sleuth as well as foster-owner to Zacchaeus, the two-million-dollar labradoodle. With her own eccentric family commenting from the sidelines and her Irish-centric landlady, Ina Carroll, as volunteer sidekick, India must discover the truth before she has a permanent canine houseguest or she ends up the next victim in the basket weaver’s murder.
My Comments: India Hayes ranks right up there as one of my favorite new detectives in a cozy mystery. Her family makes me smile! I love it that her mom is a pastor and her dad is in a wheelchair – real people! Her parents, middle aged hippies, get involved in all the local “causes.” The women in this family are strong – including India’s sister Carmen. There is a book that comes before this and I’m anxious to read it as well. The book ends with a great cliff-hanger making me want more, more, more. If you like books by Leslie Meier and Joanne Fluke, you will love this book!
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