Mousse and Murder, written under the pseudonym Elizabeth Logan, is a snappy, well-written taste of Alaskan life. As the book begins, main character Charlie Cooke has taken over the Bearclaw Diner from her mother in tiny Elkview, Alaska, and has just had a whopper of a fight with the holdover chef. She doesn’t want to tell her mother, who is enjoying her well-earned retirement on a cruise ship, but comes to regret her duplicity (never lie to your mother!). Shortly after their argument the chef turns up dead and Charlie must make do with the staff at hand and run the restaurant while simultaneously helping to solve the crime.
Logan really captures the spirit of a small town, both good and bad, the good being the way everyone pitches in to help you, and the bad the way everyone knows your business. It turns out the second part isn’t completely true, however—the more Charlie investigates the late chef, the more she realizes how little she knew about him.
There’s a good rhythm to this book, with the kind of organic plotting where one development seems to bloom naturally from the one before it. There’s a not-too-cutesy cat that busy Charlie must interact with through a phone app, even remotely playing laser tag with him. And then there’s the trooper whom everyone calls, well, “Trooper,” and who seems to embody all the good qualities of that iconic cozy figure, the local law.
Elkview has a nice population of core characters, with the town reporter, the local B & B owner who helps at the diner when needed, usually bringing her guests, and Charlie’s sous chef, all of whom add to the ambience of small-town life and small-town business.
The mystery thread is pleasantly complicated, with a red herring or two, topped with a well-choreographed solution. I especially liked that the natives are never without a warm coat, hat, scarf, and boots—because in Alaska “weather,” as well as murder, may happen at any time. This is a terrific kickoff to a promising new series.