Between volunteering for the annual pumpkin festival and coaching her girls to the state soccer finals, high school teacher Tj Jensen finds her good friend Zachary Collins dead in his favorite chair. When the handsome new deputy closes the case without so much as a “why” or “how,” Tj turns her attention from chili cook-offs and pumpkin carvingto complex puzzles, prophetic riddles, and a decades-old secret she seems destined to unravel.
What a wonderful start to a new (to me) cozy series. And since it’s fall here in Wisconsin, the timing to read this one couldn’t have been more perfect.
Tj (not sure if this is her actual first name, or first and second name initials, like Tracy Jo), is a teacher and coach at the local high school, who is also raising her two younger sisters because her estranged mother has died in a car accident.
I really enjoy this family dynamic, and it’s not one that I can think of seeing in other cozy mysteries. Since being a teacher, and raising two young girls is not cheap, she is living in at the family resort with her father and grandfather. Now I definitely know I’ve not seen this dynamic before in a cozy, and I can see a lot of potential in future books because of it.
There is also the relationship between Tj and an elderly man named Zachary. She met him years ago on a dare to go into his spooky house. She became friends with the town recluse, and over the years enjoyed a relationship with him built around their love of puzzles and codes. When Tj finds him dead, she is of, course crushed. And when the new deputy does not even entertain the idea that it could be foul play, Tj ends up investigating herself.
No here’s the part that I find a little tricky. In many cozies the main character has a job or owns a business where she can easily take off at a moment’s notice to track down clues. But with Tj being a teacher, coach, and caretaker to two small girls, I really don’t see her having any extra time to investigate.
Besides trying to track down who killed Zachary, there is another mystery as to the four people who are staying at the family resort. This side mystery reminded me of The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, which is one of the books that got me into mysteries when I was a kid. I am excited to see where Kathi Daley goes with these characters in future books, especially the twins.
All in all a good mystery, with characters that are being developed really nicely, and I’m looking forward to the next book in the series, Snowmen in Paradise.