I just finished reading (and enjoying!) Dying for Strawberries, the first book in Sharon Farrow‘s Berry Basket Mystery book series. I am writing about this book as part of my series of posts highlighting some of the most popular and recommended Cozy Mystery series. Sharon Farrow is also one half of the D.E. Ireland writing duo (along with Meg Macy)
The Berry Basket Mystery Series features a young (thirty-ish) sleuth named Marley Jacob. (Yes, her parents knew about the Dickens character — Jacob Marley — and named Marley after him for some crazy reason!)
Recently, Marley returned to her original hometown, Oriole Point, a small town bordering on Lake Michigan to open a berry theme-related shop — the Berry Basket. Oriole Point attracts a lot of tourists during the summer months and Marley’s shop does a booming business with them.
In a somewhat unusual and refreshing twist, when the story begins, Marley is already engaged. This is in contrast to most Cozies that I have read recently in which the sleuth has returned to her hometown after a failed engagement. So, at least at the beginning of this series, the sleuth is not (overtly at least) fought over by two or more suitors. This book had me hooked as soon as I read about her fiancé — I guess I am an easy mark!
As the story opens, the town is preparing for a new festival — the Strawberry Moon Bash – which is designed to promote local businesses by attracting even more visitors to Oriole Point. Marley’s friend Natasha, who is in an abusive marriage, goes missing and Marley begins her sleuthing even before there is a murder.
Of course, there is a murder (but not until quite some way into the book), and Marley — along with just about everybody who is anybody in town — is a prime suspect. Marley takes it upon herself (along with a friend or two who are roped into helping her) begins her sleuthing in earnest as soon as the murder is discovered.
Oriole Point is a charming small town — so much so that it is easy to suspend one’s disbelief about the viability of a shop that specializes in all things berry-related. The mystery is interesting with just enough clues spread around that the reader can figure out who the killer is just about a few pages before Marley does. And, in another refreshing moment, Marley figures it out just a moment before the killer confronts her (not the moment after that happens).
I enjoyed Dying for Strawberries, and I intend to return to Oriole Point to follow Marley’s continuing adventures soon.
If you’re interested in reading more of these brief revisits of some of the more popular Cozy Mystery Series that I’ve written in the past, you can find them at the Most Recommended Cozy Mystery Series page on my site.
PS: This series does feature recipes – as you may guess, berry related ones!