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DOING IT AT THE DIXIE DEW by Ruth Moose: Book Review

Have yourself a glass of iced tea, a sugar cookie or two, and you’ll be in the perfect frame of mind for this charming cozy.  Doing It at the Dixie Dew, the debut novel by Ruth Moose, won the 2013 Minotaur Books/Malice Domestic Competition for Best First Traditional Mystery Novel.  It’s easy to see why.

Beth McKenzie grew up in the small town of Littleboro, North Carolina, then she went north for college and didn’t return until her beloved grandmother died fifteen years later.  Mama Alice had raised Beth after the death of Beth’s parents, and she left Beth the only thing she had of value, her home. 

But the house, once a spic-and-span showplace from which Mama Alice ran her catering business, is now in need of major repairs–new gutters, new roof, major paint job.  No one would buy it as is, so Beth’s only option is to turn it into something that will give her a living, hence its new life as a bed and breakfast establishment.

But in its first night as a B & B, disaster strikes.  Miss Lavina Lovingood, a former Littleboro resident who recently returned from Italy, went upstairs to sleep in the Azalea Room and didn’t come down for breakfast the next morning.  At first glance it seems that she died a natural death; after all, she was close to ninety years old.  But Police Chief Ossie DelGardo seems suspicious, both of the death and of Beth.  Does he really think she would have killed Miss Lovingood, or is he just looking for some publicity and glory?

Beth is sadden by the death but also concerned that prospective guests will be dissuaded from coming to the Dixie Dew.  “Bad news always wore winged shoes,” she thinks.  “And gossip danced with taps on its heels.”

Then there’s a second death, that of the town’s Roman Catholic priest, and Chief Ossie questions Beth again.  “You’re the only thing these two have in common,” he tells her.  And, he continues, Miss Lovingood’s death was not natural; she was poisoned. 

Upset by what she perceives as the police chief’s determination to see her as the guilty party, Beth decides to do a little investigating on her own.   And there are enough suspicious characters in town to keep her busy. 

One is Beth’s former piano teacher, Miss Temple, who seemed to delight in punishing all her young students with a ruler over their knuckles whenever they hit a wrong note; second is Mama Alice’s best friend Verna Crowell, perhaps a bit too fond of an afternoon tipple of sherry; third is Miss Lovingood’s out-of-town cousin, Lester Moore, who believes that Beth has stolen Miss Lovingood’s valuable jewelry.

Luckily, Beth also has people who support her and her investigation.  There’s her housekeeper Ida Plum Duckett, her handyman/contractor Scott Smith, and her best friend Malinda Jones.  Without them on her side, the Dixie Dew would never have gotten off the ground.

Ruth Moose has written a mystery filled with interesting characters and a great setting.  We’ll have to wait for a second novel to see if Beth McKenzie can make the Dixie Dew a permanent part of Littleboro, North Carolina.

You can read more about Ruth Moose at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.