Sunday, August 30, 2020

Hems & Homicide (1st in The Apron Shop series) by Elizabeth Penney

Hems and Homicide (Apron Shop #1)
ISBN-10 : 1250257948 - Mass Market Paperback $7.99
Publisher : St. Martin's Paperbacks (December 31, 2019), 288 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley.

The blurb:
Iris Buckley is sew ready for a change. After the death of her beloved grandfather, Iris decides to stay in her Maine hometown to help out her widowed grandmother, Anne―and bring her online hand-made apron designs to real-time retail life. Her and Anne’s shop, Ruffles & Bows, is set to include all the latest and vintage linen fashions, a studio for sewing groups and classes, and a friendly orange cat. The only thing that they were not planning to have on the property? A skeleton in the basement

Anne recognizes the remains of an old friend, and when a second body shows up in the apron shop―this time their corrupt landlord, whom Anne had been feuding with for decades―she becomes a prime suspect. Now, it’s up to Iris to help clear her name. Enlisting the help of her old high-school crush Ian Stewart who, like certain fabrics, has only gotten better-looking with age and her plucky BFF Madison Morris, Iris must piece together an investigation to find out who the real killer is. . .and find a way to keep her brand-new business from being scrapped in the process.

My review:
I confess that I'd first read Thread and Dead before returning to read the first book in the series. I'd loved Thread and Dead, Elizabeth Penney and Blueberry Cove in Maine. I love cozies, Agatha Christie and these small towns, so I was quick to lose myself in Thread and Dead. and knowing the characters enjoyed going backward to find out more about the characters I'd come to care about. Blueberry Cove sounds like one of the prosperous towns in New England with millionaires' cottages that are Gilded Age mansions by any other standard. Blueberry Cove felt like a mix of Newport, Rhode Island and Bar Harbor, Maine with the delicious lobsters, the wealthy towns with high quality shops, families that have lived in the area for generations, and the emphasis on high end tourism. But beyond the memorable location, the strong female characters from Iris Buckley and her grandmother to their solid circle of friends. The camaraderie of the women and their romantic leads gives Elizabeth Penney's novel a lightness and cheer. Iris Buckley has a fondness for classic cars and the classic looks of the 20s, 40s, and 50s. She is inquisitive but unfailingly polite - an unkind neighbor might call her a snoop. Iris lost her parents in a car accident as a child and was raised by her grandparents in Blueberry Cove on a sprawling piece of land that has been in the Buckley family for generations.

At the start of Hems and Homicide, Iris and her grandmother are just starting their business. Iris's grandfather ("Papa") died a few months prior and her grandmother has decided to invest part of the insurance proceeds into their store. As they start renovating, Iris and her grandmother discover remains of someone that Grammie knew decades ago. Grammie is convinced that the dead body is one of her friends from the 70s, a beautiful young woman who they had thought moved away. As the police investigate, another dead body appears on their store premises but this time it is their obnoxious and difficult landlord Elliot. Elliot has been trying to get Grammie to sell some of her land to him and she's the one who finds the body. The police find it suspicious that Grammie is connected to both victims. Who has a motive? Who might be next? Iris, Grammie and Madison ferret out the clues and the truth - always with politeness and good taste. We get to know Anton, the Police Chief, and his early flirtations with Iris's friend Madison. In Hems & Homicide, Iris reconnects with the handsome contractor hired to handle the renovation - their early dealings are full of romantic charm. This book combines the fun and humor of a light romance with the mystery of a cozy. Like Thread and Dead, Hems & Homicide is the sort of book I'd lend or recommend to friends looking for a summer escape. I will be keeping my eye out for anything else by Elizabeth Penney. In the time of this Covid 19 pandemic, books like Hems & Homicide and #2 Thread and Dead are a special joy! Granted, her books would be fun even in the best of times.

About the Author:
Elizabeth Penney is the author of more than two dozen cozy mysteries, among other novels. She is a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association and the owner of 2 Penney Productions. A former consultant and nonprofit executive, Elizabeth grew up in Maine and now lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, where she also operates a small farm. Hems and Homicide is the first in the Apron Shop series. Visit her website to learn more.

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