Cocoa butter soap, check. Lemon lip balm, check. A dead body? That's just what Sophie Mae Reynolds finds in her workroom: the corpse of Walter Hanover, the neighborhood handyman. He died from drinking lye, something she has in good supply. But the police don't suspect Sophie Mae, a thirty-something widow who makes and sells beauty products. Instead they call it a suicide. But why would a man with lottery cash and a loving fiancée kill himself?
Breaking it Down Further: As a self-employed maker bath products and a somewhat recent widow, Sophie Mae Reynolds has started making a new life for herself. She moved in with her divorced friend Meghan (former lawyer, now masseuse) and her daughter Erin and they manage to get by pretty well despite all the changes in their lives — That is, until Sophie Mae finds the neighborhood handyman Walter dead on her workroom floor in the basement. To the police, she seems like the perfect target, especially since he ingested lye which she keeps in abundance in her workroom for the making of soaps. Sophie Mae takes it upon herself to clear her good name and find out who killed good-natured Walter. In the process, she starts a relationship with local detective Barr Ambrose — at first begrudgingly, and then he starts to grow on her. She and Meghan also have to deal with Meghan’s slime ex-husband Richard and his overbearing mother, who has never come around before but now demands to be a part of Erin’s life. Chaos ensues as Sophie Mae tries to deal with family issues and solve a murder – without getting herself hurt or killed first!
Wow, I actually really enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would! It was a nice, cozy mystery but there were a lot of surprise twists and turns in there. Those are the kinds of things I love – When the author introduces a completely new idea (new to the reader, anyway) and it’s something I couldn’t have possibly seen coming or predicted but it totally fits and makes sense. There were a few of those in this book that really made it just more than a cozy little story.
Even though it’s set in a small town, the story doesn’t get swallowed in the “small town” feel. Sometimes I feel like authors focus too much on the fact that the town is small and that everyone knows each other that it gets too boxed in and unrelatable for me. This has the laid-back feel, but even mystery so that new characters can be introduced when necessary and not everyone has to be an outsider.
Also, I really liked the main character — Sophie Mae — and how she was portrayed throughout the story. She’s determined and stubborn, like any good female detective/snooper, but she does it in a way that’s aloof to the possibility that she’s putting herself in danger. She was a very likeable character, and I really liked her budding relationship with Detective Ambrose! It was introduced very subtly and slowly and it made me want to keep on reading the next books to find out what happens between them.
Okay, I don’t usually give things 5 stars, but I was just so pleasantly surprised on how much I liked this book that I thought it deserved it! I just really enjoyed how the mystery unfolded and it didn’t feel rushed to give away clues or introduce characters or force relationships. The story developed so naturally and carefully and I thought it was excellent.