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Doing It at the Dixie Dew by Ruth Moose
Cover Artist: Tom Hallman
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250046383
Date: 06 May 2014 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Beth McKenzie has returned to her Podunk hometown of Littleboro, North Carolina. She has dreams of turning her grandmother's house into the Dixie Dew Bed-and-Breakfast. Unfortunately, one of her first guests, the wealthy Lavinia Lovingood, checks in alive but checks out dead, a victim of poison. On the day of Lavinia's funeral, Father Roderick is found strangled to death in front of his altar. Beth is frightened that the Dixie Dew will become known as a dead-and-breakfast and tourists will be too scared to sleep there. Determined to find a killer among a town full of crazies, a snooping Beth is soon targeted by a vicious maniac.

Reading Ruth Moose's Doing it at the Dixie Dew was so much fun that I wanted to open up my own bed and breakfast. The small, quaint town of Littleboro is one of those "goober towns" that one only stops at to use the restroom while traveling cross country. It is a town where everyone knows your name and no one locks their doors at night. (At least they didn't until one of Beth's guests is poisoned to death at the Dixie Dew.) Littleboro, I soon learned, has more nuts and fruits than the entire state of California.

Beth's senile neighbor, Verna Crowell, has a white rabbit, Robert Redford, which freely roams her house and yard as though it were a cat or dog. Miss Tempie Merritt, an abusive piano teacher, faithfully visits the grave of her dog, Harold, which was unlawfully interred in a cemetery for people. Crazy Reba Slatterfield wears outlandishly mismatched clothes, sleeps in trees, and makes herself a public nuisance. There is also Elsie Shimpock, the town mourner, who attends every funeral.

My hometown had a character similar to Crazy Reba. His name was crazy Joe; at Midland Shopping Center, he'd drunkenly swing at cars as they passed by him in the parking lot. I bet everyone's hometown had someone like Crazy Reba or Crazy Joe. Some of Beth's neighbors can be found in all our hometowns, both big and small.

Devoted followers of the magazine Southern Living will like Doing it at the Dixie Dew. Beth is a regular homemaker who sews curtains, bakes muffins, irons tablecloths, and stencils pineapples all over the floor of the new tea room. Her hunky love interest, handy man Scott Smith, is turning the back porch into a tea room. Doesn't every cozy have a hunky handy man? And let's not forget the requisite pet. Beth has a black-and-white cat, Sherman, who lolls around the house. I've already mentioned Vera's rabbit. I'm surprised one of the neighborhood dogs or cats hasn't eaten it. I had pet rabbits while growing up and wouldn't let them roam free on their own.

This novel isn't the most realistic one I've read. Sometimes, I felt that Littleboro is the Village that Time Forgot. It is trapped forever in the fifties. (My parents loved the fifties; I loved the seventies.) I must remind myself that Doing it at the Dixie Dew is pure escapism. The mystery sometimes takes a back seat to the Southern, down-home setting and the whacky, bizarre characters. I was disappointed that Beth didn't take more of an active role in solving the mysteries plaguing her bed and breakfast. She is more of a victim than a victor.

Nevertheless, Doing it at the Dixie Dew is an excellent novel for fans of Southern cozies. It reminds me of a long ago era. It oozes nostalgia that made my eyes sometimes glisten with sadness. Ruth Moose is gifted at writing down-home, Southern charm and creating eccentric characters. I only hope that readers don't get the impression that all Southerners are strange. I'm looking forward to the next installment in the Dixie Dew series. Next time around, however, I hope Beth McKenzie takes a more active role in determining the killer's identity.

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