A Review of It’s Murder Dontcha Know by Christine Marcotte

There are plenty of twists and turns that keep the murderer a mystery until the very end

Minnesota author Jeanne Cooney’s It’s Murder Dontcha Know is the first in her new series of cozy mysteries, published by North Star Press (release date March 29, 2022). Light-hearted and humorous, it is the perfect book to read when you have a fully stocked pantry. As with Cooney’s Hot Dish Heaven mystery series, this one is sprinkled with recipes for hot dishes and bars.  And with a full pantry you will be able to make a few. The Chicken Tetrazzini Baked Hot Dish and Blueberry Streusel Bars with Lemon-Cream Filling were both hits at a gathering I attended last week.

Doris Connor, the main character, moves her house, yes, the entire house, from her farm to the edge of Hallock, following the death of her husband. She likes the house but has had enough of farming. Doris prefers solitude. But in short order, Grace, her sister, and Rose, a ninety-year-old family friend, move in with Doris even before the wiring is hooked up.

The More Hot Dish, Please Café, the local restaurant owned by Grace, is where folks gather to hear the neighborhood news and gossip. Readers of Cooney’s books will recall that the Hot Dish Heaven Café was a prominent setting in the previous series. When it burned down, owner Margie Johnson decided not to rebuild. Instead, she sold her recipe collection to Grace who continued to provide popular menu items such as creamy Tater-Tot Hot Dish, Baked Cornbread Hot Dish, and Chicken-and-Stuffing Hot Dish.

Rumors fly following the robbery at the pharmacy and names are tossed around when the robber, Buck Daniels, turns up murdered. When Doris’s two adult children, Erin and Will, are implicated, Doris is beside herself. Her high school boyfriend, sheriff Karl Ingebretsen, might still be sweet on Doris, but he has no sympathy for the suspects Erin and Will.

Meddling comes naturally to Doris, so she sets out to find the murderer before Erin or Will are arrested. Doris, with the help (whether it is asked for or not) of Grace and Rose, is determined to exonerate her children. The book has plenty of suspects and it takes Doris and her cohorts several weeks to whittle down their list, but will it ever match the sheriff’s list?

Doris almost lands herself in jail, but when Sheriff Ingebretsen asks if he can use her kitchen to interview the person who just might be the murderer, Doris believes she’s safe. “‘Well, sure. Go ahead.’ I acted like it was no big deal. Like I hosted police interrogations all of the time. But on the inside, I was as excited as a dog with two tails.” In full Minnesota nice mode Doris makes coffee, Grace defrosts homemade Chocolate Chip Bars, and Rose finds the napkins.

Cooney captures the northern Minnesota vernacular: “Hey, that, there,” and wit: “He looked bad enough to scare the blind.” Cooney has a knack for snappy metaphors that add humor to unusual situations through Doris’s internal dialogue. In response to a physician who believes they should be on a first name basis, Doris thinks, “I felt as awkward around him as a cow on ice,” or “I had been as shocked as a bird on a live wire,” when she learned that her incorrigible daughter had decided to pursue a career in law enforcement.

There are plenty of twists and turns that keep the murderer a mystery until the very end, and enough references to hot dishes and bars to encourage you to head to your kitchen every couple chapters.

Jeanne Cooney will present a Mystery Writing Workshop presented by Lake Superior Writers Saturday, March 12, 9:00-11:00am on Zoom. Click here for further information and to register for the event.

Christine Lynn Marcotte writes historical fiction and nonfiction. She began writing after hearing family stories from her ninety-eight-year-old grandmother. Chris’s love of local history inspired the Reminisce column (2014-current) for local newspapers. She is a contributing writer to the Lake Country Journal Magazine and is revising her first mystery novel, based on the actual ax murder of her third great-grandfather. Chris has published short stories and essays in regional and international journals. She is also working on a historical trilogy and a linked short story collection.  For more information visit ChrisMarcotteWrites.com.