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Wedding Bell Blues (Dixie Dew/Beth McKenzie) by Ruth Moose
Cover Artist: David Baldeosingh Rotstein
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250067418
Date: 23 August 2016 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Littleboro's biggest drama queen, Beth McKenzie, has been extremely busy preparing for two weddings. The first is a make believe wedding for her homeless, mentally challenged friend, Crazy Reba. The second is a genuine wedding for Sheriff Ossie DelGardo and his fiancée, popular hometown girl, Juanita. Also, she is a member of the planning committee for Littleboro's ill-fated Green Bean Festival.

Crazy Reba is found at a roadside park, crying and insisting she's killed her fiancé, who just happens to be God; an unknown man is taken to the hospital where he remains in the ICU. Checking into the Dixie Dew B&B are food judges, one of whom becomes deathly ill. Meanwhile, a large, angry woman is stalking and threatening to kill Beth.

Wedding Bell Blues is Ruth Moose's second novel in the Beth McKenzie Mystery series. Its plot is even more convoluted and nonsensical than the series' debut, Doing It at the Dixie Dew. Ruth puts forth a tremendous amount of effort into making her latest novel as Southern, nostalgic, and hilarious as possible. Unfortunately, its mystery suffers.

The protagonist of a mystery novel is a detective, whether in an amateur or professional capacity, who solves crimes. Beth doesn't solve the mystery. According to the novel: "In the end, Bruce Bechner tied all the loose ends together." Actually, this isn't even true. Bruce, who is Sheriff Ossie's deputy, claims he's revealed too much and there is still an ongoing investigation.

I realize that all novels require a suspension of disbelief but this one requires that you permanently hang it out to dry. In my opinion, Mayor Calista Moss is unfit for duty. She has a pet box turtle, Nadine, whose sanity she is more worried about than the health of a frightened guest who appeared to be choking to death on her dining room floor. Beth's next door neighbor, Verna, has a pet rabbit, Robert Redford. I've had pet rabbits all my life. They do not act like cats; they can't be turned loose and expected to come back home every night. They can't defend themselves like cats. They are lovable, adorable creatures that need more protecting and sheltering than felines. Furthermore, Crazy Reba supposedly lives in a tree. She must be ate up by mosquitoes every night. If the citizens of Littleboro, North Carolina, truly cared about her, they would find her a shelter for the mentally challenged instead of throwing her a make believe wedding.

Many of us, including myself, sometimes long for a past when life was simpler and all our loved ones were still young, healthy, and alive. Like Beth McKenzie, I also miss my grandmother. However, there comes a time when one must let go of the past and live in the present, endeavoring to make the best of it. Beth can't seem to let go. Littleboro like many small towns has suffered from the economic downturn. Its specialty shops are closing everywhere (who can compete with Walmart?) and its young people are fleeing to the big cities in search of better paying jobs. I feel the pain also each time I go to the mall and learn another one of my favorite stores has closed.

Sometimes I feel that Beth's dead grandmother, Margaret Alice, is a character, like a ghost. Beth is always mentioning her. Mama Alice did this and Mama Alice did that. This kitchen apron belonged to Mama Alice. Beth needs to bury Mama Alice and marry Scott Smith. Scott is the local carpenter who is always hanging out at the Dixie Dew B&B, hoping to get coffee and fresh baked goodies. Beth and him have been "doing it" at the Dixie Dew, hence the name of the series' debut. She can't wait for him to build that backyard gazebo so they can begin "doing it" in there.

Don't get me wrong, this novel does have a lot of humor; sometimes, it borders on trite and tacky. Her describing Pastor Pittman's congregation as "The Frozen Chosen" might offend some Southern Baptists. However, I did laugh when elderly, senile Verna attempted a dirty joke by naming the three parts of a stove: "Lifter, Leg and Poker".

Writing a mystery can be difficult when you're telling it in the first person from the main character's point of view. Still, Beth needs to be more involved in solving her mysteries. Readers feel left out when someone other than the detective solves the mystery. The best-selling cozy mysteries written by M.C. Beaton and Parnell Hall take place in small towns. They dwell on small town charm and not the tragedies wrought by an economic downturn.

Despite its flaws, Wedding Bell Blues does have a lot of heart. It emphasizes the love of family and friends. Beth looks upon her eccentric employees and neighbors and even the homeless as being a part of her extended family. Hopefully, she will marry Scott and cease dwelling on the past. She has a bright future at the Dixie Dew B&B and I look forward to the next installment in this charming, quirky series with its touch of Southern hospitality.

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