Beth Kennedy takes a vacation from running her children's bookstore to spend time with her kids, but then has a full to-do list waiting for her when she returns. One overdue task is delivering books to customers that have placed special orders. However, when Beth arrives at the reclusive Amy Jacobson's house to deliver her books, she learns the young woman has died from an allergic reaction to bee stings. Beth is horrified and after asking around a little about Amy, she is surprised to discover a possible connection between Amy's death and a long ago tragedy. Beth goes to the police, but they consider both cases closed and definitely unrelated. That's when Beth uses the people skills she's gained from making it through the politically charged PTA meetings at her children's school to use in getting to the bottom of the two cases.
This light, cozy series is getting better with each book. Beth is starting to stand up for herself more, although she still lets some of the PTA officers, especially her nemesis Claudia Wolff, bully her at times. Beth can always depend on her best friend Marina whenever she needs help with a case or just needs a friend. Marina's loyalty is her best quality. Marina can sometimes be a little grating, but she has matured and encourages Beth to be more assertive. The quirky mother of four is a drama queen and may break out into a Southern, German, or some other accent at any time, but she always has Beth's best interests at heart, and Beth feels the same about Marina. At one point in the book, someone close to Beth criticizes Marina, and it is wonderful that the sometimes timid Beth doesn't hesitate to defend her best friend.
In between PTA meetings, running a bookstore, and raising her two children, Beth somehow finds time to investigate two cases, and she makes a good amateur sleuth. Her boyfriend Evan Garrett doesn't approve, but Beth feels compelled to help those in need, and I'm glad she stands her ground and sticks with the investigation. The book starts to drag a bit in the middle, but gets better as Beth does more investigating. The author cleverly ties in the tragic event of a teenager drowning that occurred in the small Wisconsin town 20 years previously with Amy's death. This adds depth to the plot and makes the storyline more interesting. Even though Beth sometimes finds herself outmaneuvered by Claudia Wolff at PTA meetings, she does not back down on either case no matter what others say. By the end of the story, Beth ties everything together in the investigation and takes an important step in her personal life, which makes a nice ending for this book and hints at good things to come in future books. Fans of Leslie Meier will enjoy this latest book by Laura Alden.
This review was originally written for The Season EZine. The book was provided to me in exchange for an honest review.