The Final Tap
The Final Tap is a sequel to The Final Reveille, a murder mystery set at a living history museum, a reconstructed farm in Ohio, but it works perfectly well as a starting point if you haven’t read the previous.
This time, instead of a Civil War reenactor getting killed, it’s a despicable, unliked expert on maple sugaring in this mystery by Amanda Flower. It’s spring at the farm, although the winter weather keeps hanging around.
Kelsey, manager of the farm museum, has set up a new Maple Sugar Festival, complete with classes, school visitors, and exhibitions. Only the instructor is found with a sugaring drill through his heart, throwing plans into disarray. Kelsey’s attempts to investigate, in order to protect one of her employees who’s become the chief suspect, bring her in touch with a local all-male sugaring group, the nearby university, and the rest of the farm staff, including a silent farmhand and a grumpy gardener.
Flower’s mysteries are brisk reads, and I like the way her victims are always thoroughly unlikeable, so no one will miss them. There aren’t clues to figure out — the solution in both this and the previous book is found when the villain tries to take Kelsey hostage — and I got a couple of the supporting characters confused by the end, but the setting is appealing and events involving enough for a nicely escapist read. The romantic sub-plot, involving a local EMT who likes Kelsey, adds to the enjoyment. The Final Tap will be out in early May. (The publisher provided an advance digital review copy.)