REVIEW: Town in a Pumpkin Bash

Town in a Pumpkin Bash by B.B. Haywood
Berkley Prime Crime (336 pages)
February 5, 2013

For fans of:  Joanne Fluke

Rating:  8 (Good!)

When Maine blueberry farmer Candy Holliday agrees to help her friend Maggie tend old Mr. Gumm’s pumpkin patch through the fall season, she figures it’ll be an easy way to have some fun while making some extra cash.  She does not, however, expect that she and Maggie will stumble across a dead body buried in a pile of pumpkins just days before Halloween, or that the discovery will land her smack in the middle of yet another murder investigation.  The deeper Candy digs, the more it seems the killer meant for her to find the corpse and become involved in the case.  But if so, who?  And perhaps more importantly, why?

Town in a Pumpkin Bash is the fourth of B.B. Haywood’s Candy Holliday Mysteries, and it’s her best to date.  The previous installments in Haywood’s series have been entertaining, but historically, her attempts to make her books and her characters seem authentically Maine-y have been so over-the-top that I actually found them insulting. (Yes, I’m from Maine, so I may be a little overly sensitive about such matters, but to me, it felt like Haywood spent half of each book waving her hands and screaming, “This is what Maine people eat! This is what Maine people wear! This is how Maine people talk! Isn’t it craaazzzyyyy?” Maine is a state, people – not an alien planet; get a grip.)

I’m happy to report, however, that with Town in a Pumpkin Bash, Haywood has finally written a book that feels like it actually takes place in Maine.  The characters are quirky and colorful, but not too.  The town is small and quaint, but not nauseatingly so.  And she drops just enough Maine facts and trivia into the mix to lend context and veracity to her tale, but not so many as to disrupt the flow of the story.  

Haywood’s prose is artful and fun, her narrative style is engaging, and the two central mysteries (one past and one present) are clever, complex, and connect quite seamlessly.  The story is perfectly paced, with twists, clues, confrontations, and red herrings dropped in all the right places, and Haywood manages to keep the reader guessing until the very end.  I confess, I wish she’d spent a little more time developing her suspects (after I read the Big Reveal, I didn’t recall having met the culprit and had to page back and figure out who said culprit was in relation to the rest of the story), but in the grand scheme of things, that’s a relatively minor quibble.

If you’re sick of the cold and the snow and are yearning to escape to someplace a little more exciting and a little less bleak, look no further than Town in Pumpkin Bash by B.B. Haywood; come for the beautiful Maine foliage, stay for the intrigue and the dead bodies.