The Calamity Café by Gayle Leeson is the first book in the NEW “Down South Café” mystery series. Publisher: Penguin Random House, June 2016

The Calamity CafeAspiring chef and small-town Virginia native Amy Flowers is ready to open her own café offering old-fashioned Southern food. But her dream may go up in smoke when someone kills the competition.

Tired of waiting tables at Lou’s Joint, Amy Flowers doesn’t just quit—she offers to buy the place from her bully of a boss, so she can finally open the café of her dreams. Amy can’t wait to serve the kind of Southern, down-home treats and dishes that her grandmother always loved to the kooky cast of regulars at the restaurant. She knows her comfort food will be the talk of the sweet, small town of Winter Garden, Virginia.

At first Lou Lou refuses to sell, but when she seems ready to make a deal, she tells Amy to come see her. Showing up at the eatery ready to negotiate, Amy is shocked to find her former employer murdered. As the prime suspect, Amy will have to clear her name by serving up the real killer—and with Lou Lou’s stack of enemies, that’s a tall order.

This fresh new drama was well-written with a comfortable tone and a nice even pacing that quickly became a page turner as I had to know what happens next. The author did a great job in presenting the suspects and all the facts that gave way to clues that took me closer to the identity of the killer with some interesting twists that enhanced the telling of this tale. I like how the author set up the mystery making it enticingly appealing with a charismatic cast of characters, engaging dialogue and that small-town feel that made me fall in love with the residents of Winter Garden, Virginia, from Homer to Aunt Bess to Dilly to name a few. This was a very enjoyable read and a welcome addition to the cozy genre and I look forward to more adventures with Amy and her friends in this delightfully charming debut series.

Gayle Leeson is a pseudonym for Gayle Trent

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