A few years ago, prior to blogging, I read a couple of Sandra Balzo’s cozies. Both were in her Maggy Thorsen Coffee Shop Mystery series. I remember them as being lighthearted and a little funny. When the author asked me if I’d like to read the first book in her new series, I said yes.
The new series, Main Street Mysteries, features a Wisconsin crime-beat reporter, AnnaLise Griggs. In this new book, Running On Empty, she has come home for a long weekend visit with her mom. Home is a small tourist town in North Carolina.
The town’s residents are used to boating accidents, but when more people than normal are dead, AnnaLise starts to help investigate. Since this is a small town she knows most of the people and that helps her connect with the right people.
Speaking of connecting, I had a hard time getting with AnnaLise in this new series. I was nine chapters in before I felt like anything was happening. It seemed as if the author was taking forever to introduce all the characters, set the time and place, and in general, to get things going.
I decided to stop and download the author’s first novel in her first series. I figured I would read that one and compare it to the new series.
In Uncommon Grounds, Maggy Thorsen is one of those protagonists you want to pull for. She is a never-say-die person. On the first day when she and her two partners are about to open their new high-end coffee shop, one of the partners is electrocuted by the espresso machine. It wasn’t an accident.
Maggy’s coffee shop is also in a small town and she knows most of the people too. She manages to get people to talk to her, share their secrets and help her solve the mystery. I had a couple of people I suspected, but I wasn’t positive until near the end.
After finishing this book I went back and finished reading Running On Empty. What I liked here were the quirky characters, especially “Mama” who owns the Main Street cafe. She loves to serve name-brand recipes and lots of comfort food. AnnaLise’s mom with her memory problem is a sympathetic character. Some of the other characters I couldn’t buy. For me, the story just seemed to ramble around.
Overall, I was disappointed in Running On Empty. It’s probably just me. Sandra Balzo is a good writer and knows how to tell a good story. Her other series of six books is very popular. Will I read the second book in this new series? Probably. I don’t want to give up on a good author.
RUNNING ON EMPTY: Publisher: Severn House, 2011: My Rating: C
UNCOMMON GROUNDS: Publisher: Worldwide Library, 2007: My Ratings: B