The novels in the A Taste of Texas Mystery series by Rebecca Adler are delightful and fun cozies. The main character is Josie Callahan – a thirty-something ex-newspaper reporter turned waitress. Prior to the opening of the first novel (HERE TODAY, GONE TAMALE), Josie has recently fled Austin after her fiancé broke up with her and she lost her job as a newspaper reporter. She’s back in Broken Boot, Texas – a small town in West Texas near the Chihuahuan Desert. Josie originally moved to Broken Boot when she was a teenager. Her parents had just died, and she went to live with her aunt and uncle in Broken Boot.
As of 2018, there are three novels in the A Taste of Texas Mystery series: HERE TODAY, GONE TAMALE (2015), THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE GUACAMOLE (2016), and CINCO DE MURDER (2018). Each of the novels place in Broken Boot, and all of them are focused around a festival or celebration that brings an influx of tourists to the small town in West Texas. In the first novel, Josie is basically just a Nosy Nellie sticking her nose into the sheriff department’s investigation because she wants to prove that the person that the sheriff arrested is not the killer. In the second and third novels, Josie is covering the crime beat for the Broken Boot Bugle, and, while that does make her an actual investigator, it does give her a reason to dig deeper into the investigations.
HERE TODAY, GONE TAMALE (2015) is the first in the A Taste of Texas Mystery Series by Rebecca Adler. Josie Callahan has been back in Broken Boot for about three months, and she’s in the process of getting over her ex-fiancé and putting her life back together after losing her job as a newspaper reporter in Austin. Josie is currently working as a waitress at her aunt’s restaurant, the Milagro. She is also helping prepare for the Wild Wild West Festival that is about to take place in Broken Boot. Aunt Linda hosts a tamale-making party at the Milagro for the movers-and-shakers of Broken Boot prior to the festival. Tensions are high, arguments ensue, and someone winds up getting murdered. It’s Josie who stumbles upon the body of Dixie Honeycutt behind the Milagro. Dixie was a local jewelry designer. The (sometimes) unpleasant woman also didn’t have many friends around Broken Boot. Josie had planned to leave it up to the local sheriff’s department to investigate the murder and find the person who strangled Dixie with one of her own necklaces. But when one of the Milagro busboys is arrested and charged with Dixie’s murder, Josie’s reporter instincts kick in and she begins to investigate on her own. And when the killer begins to threaten Josie’s long-haired Chihuahua, all bets are off.
I found HERE TODAY, GONE TAMALE to be a very enjoyable read. Josie is a very likeable character, as are her family and friends. The small town of Broken Boot comes to life in the descriptions. The mystery of who killed Dixie was very engaging. A lot of people had a reason to kill Dixie, and Adler kept me guessing on the killer up till the end.
Amateur sleuth Josie Callahan is back in THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE GUACAMOLE. Broken Boot has once again opened their arms to welcome an influx of tourists to town for the annual Homestead Days celebration. Josie’s Uncle Eddie has booked the Jeff Clark Band to perform at his Two Boots dancehall every night of the festivities. Josie and her best friend, Patti Perez, are at the dancehall to see Jeff Clark perform during the first of his performances. Patti and Jeff go way back – they dated years ago – and Patti is looking forward to catching up with her old flame. But Patti doesn’t want to catch up with Jeff in the same way that he wants to catch up. Realizing that Jeff hasn’t changed over the years and that he’s still a tomcat, Patti leaves Jeff at her house and then goes to spend the night at her store. The next morning, Josie heads over to Patti’s house to interview Jeff for the Broken Boot Bugle. That’s when Josie finds Jeff face down in a bowl a guacamole. His head had been bashed in with Patti’s guitar. Patti immediately jumps to the top of the sheriff department’s suspect list. Patti had means, motive, and opportunity. And Jeff was murdered in her house. Josie knows that Patti is innocent, and it’s up to her to prove it.
THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE GUACAMOLE is a solid follow up to HERE TODAY, GONE TAMALE. Jeff Clark makes a great victim – he’s a sleazy, smooth-talking horndog. He’s both loved and hated by his band members. Most of the band members, and the other people who are part of the tour, had a reason to kill him. And the fact that the band and their agent want to move on and replace Jeff within days of his murder shows that he’s not going to be missed by certain people. Having Patti arrested for the murder gives Josie even more of a reason to stick her nose into the investigation. If no one else is going to bother looking for another suspect, it’s up to her to find the killer and free Patti.
Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the ARC.
There’s another fiesta in Broken Boot, and you know what that means…waitress and part-time crime reporter Josie Callahan is about to discover another dead body in her small West Texas town of Broken Boot. As this is the third novel in the A Taste of Texas Mystery series, and the third murder that takes place during some sort of festival or celebration, the initial plot of the series is getting a little predictable and stale. But don’t worry, Josie will solve the case and help Detective Lightfoot apprehend the killer before the celebration officially ends.
In CINCO DE MURDER (2018), Josie’s Uncle Eddie’s reputation – and his seat on the city council – hangs on the success of Broken Boot's First Annual Charity Chili Cook-off. The night before the festivities, the contestants gather at the Milagro for dinner and a reminder of the rules for the chili-cook off. Tempers are quick to flare when one of the contestants – a man with the laughable moniker of Lucky Straw – reminds everyone that he has won the most chili cook-offs out of all of them. Lucky is an abrasive man and it appears that he only has one friend. That’s probably because he cost many of the other contestants their jobs when they all worked for the local electric company. Lucky also has a nasty habit of stealing other men’s girlfriends. It’s no surprise when Josie stumbles over his dead body the next morning while she is double checking everyone’s set ups at the site of the cook-off. Between patrolling for cheaters and catering to the judges, Josie finds time to check out the crime scene, interview suspects, and confer with Detective Lightfoot about the case. Josie seems to be the only one who knows how Lucky was killed – which is actually in a bizarre way that kept things interesting. Josie is also the first person to figure out who the killer is – though she does it totally by accident when he takes her as a hostage and locks her into his van that can only be unlocked from the outside by using a key. It also takes Josie way too long to finally break a window to escape the van so that she can go after the man who killed Lucky and has now kidnapped her dog.
While I found CINCO DE MURDER to have an intriguing storyline, I felt like the story jumped around at times and wasn’t always cohesive. Secondary storylines that may or may not have had anything to do with the murder seemed to peter out without any conclusion. (Was Dani the mother or the aunt of the three children that were with her? And did she make it back to the hotel or did she pass out drunk along the way? And did the two B&Es at the local stores have anything at all to do with the murder, or were they just to help Josie figure out clues from the crime scene? And what the heck happened to that poor woman’s laptop charger???) There also seemed to be way too much going on during the two-and-a-half days in which the story took place – aside from the chili cook-off and the investigation, there is also the daily restaurant work that takes place as well as a parade, two B&Es that Josie helps Detective Lightfoot check out, and a fireworks show. The main characters remained consistent with the first two novels – though Detective Lightfoot is much more receptive to Josie’s amateur investigation than he ever was before. It’s good to see them working together. I also enjoyed the way in which the bad guy murdered Lucky even though I didn’t quit understand exactly how it was possible to kill someone in that way.