My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was an intriguing beginning to the series. Nora, a burn victim, has gone to Miracle Springs, NC, to start a new life as the owner of a book shop in a town known for having ‘healing waters’ which is its main industry. Many of the people in this have come here for similar reasons. Nora has a talent for suggesting a reading list to help people but she’s very reluctant to share anything about herself due to the past. She does have some budding friendships, Estella the hairdresser and Hester a baker who knows how to make ‘comfort scones’ by sizing up someone and baking just the right thing to help them. Also into this small group comes June, who works at the hot spring pools.
A man Nora sent to Hester for a scone is killed by a train before he can come to Nora for his personalized reading list. All she knows is he’s working with Pine Ridge development and was feeling guilty about something and she doesn’t believe he jumped in front of a train. Her friends agree but Sheriff Todd Hendricks i.e. Sheriff Toad disagrees, happy to write it off as a suicide. I was worried because I hate the cozy mystery trope of the amateur detective going against a cop who doesn’t want them there (obstruction of justice charges anyone?) No worries here. Toad thinks women are too stupid to be worth worrying about and that they should be home cooking for their men.
These four broken women come together to solve the crime, each bearing the titular secret As we go and they start looking into Pine Ridge and its shady practices, their secrets are revealed even as the body count goes up and one of them is blamed. Into the mix Jed, a paramedic and Deputy Andrews, enter as possible sources of information and understanding.
The mystery was satisfying and the women are very interesting, people I’d like to know. I’m willing to accept Hester and Nora’s almost mystical ability to bake or suggest books to help people. On the other hand I had a bit of trouble with Nora’s store. She was a librarian but rather than stay one she opens a book store because that’s the heart of a town. Unfortunately that’s sadly not true any more (as much as I wished it was). That aside, being a bibliotherapist would have been easier to buy if she were a librarian still. I have trouble believing strangers would be willing to buy a half dozen books on her say so. It would be easier to believe they’d rent them from the library. That aside, I loved that she recommended books from every genre, mystery, SF, fantasy, contemporary, romance, non fiction, you name it. I’m looking forward to more.
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