A Bean to Die For by Tara Lush (January 2024) Crooked Lane Books
Lana Lewis is a former reporter turned co-owner of Perkatory, a coffee shop in Devil’s Beach, Florida. While helping her father in a community garden called Peas on Earth, she discovers Jack Dagitt’s body dead.
Jack, a known temperamental activist, had been banned from the community garden administered by Darla Ippolito. Darla has just changed some rules in the community garden that irked Jack which sent him ranting on Facebook.
Darla, on the other hand, has a past criminal record and comes to Devil’s Beach to start her life anew. Because of this, she becomes the number one suspect.
Lana’s boyfriend, police chief Noah Garcia, asks her to stay out of the investigation, having been too involved already in previous cases. But when she learns that Jack’s death is a homicide, her investigative reporter instinct kicks in, poking around town in an attempt to solve the case and clear Darla’s name.
As Lana investigates deeper into Jack’s death, she learns that he had more enemies, which means more suspects. This stresses her out more because she’s preparing dinner for Noah’s family who are coming over to meet her that weekend and she wants to impress them with her lasagna. However, when she finds Darla dead after their unfinished phone call, she has to move fast because she believes that the two crimes are related.
I couldn’t help but compare this novel to Cleo Coyle’s Coffeehouse Mystery series because of their similarities. Both authors have a strong female character who manages a coffee shop, who is divorced, has a police investigator as a boyfriend, and the murder happened within the community where the coffee shop belongs.
The plot begins to follow a “formula”: a non-police officer wants to clear the suspect’s name and then that suspect dies. Although this plot can still sustain suspense in crime fiction, readers could go two ways: either become interested in solving the mystery with the main character or could get “bored” because they could sense or guess “whodunnit”. Somehow, the novel was able to make me stick with Lana although I was able to guess who killed Jack. I found myself laughing when I guessed immediately what would happen to the lasagna. For me, I give this novel 3 out of 5 stars.