I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.
I almost gave this 4 stars but there were a couple of small logic failures that weren't important to the plot but noticeable nonetheless.
The Crozats have an inn full of guests for the local food festival--elderly honeymooners, the Cajun Cuties, a mysterious stranger from Texas, a couple of hipster lovebirds, and a trio of Georgia frat boys. But when the elderly couple keels over dead within minutes of each other--one from very unnatural causes-- Maggie and the others suddenly become suspects in a murder. With the help of Bo Durand, the town's handsome new detective, Maggie must investigate to clear her name while holding the family business together at the same time. And the deeper she digs, the more she wonders: are all of the guests really there for a vacation or do they have ulterior motives?
I liked Maggie and her parents a lot; most of the time I liked her grandmother too, although Byron uses her too blatantly as a device to further Maggie's investigations. There's a nemesis in this story in the form of the Chief of Police; the result of an old, old family dispute a la Hatfields and McCoys, but Byron manages to make this antagonism believable; while his antagonism is unhidden and dishonourable, he never breaks the law or does anything beyond believability. This realism makes his nastiness more effective.
The atmosphere is fantastic; very recognisable as Louisiana's bayou country, complete with strangling humidity. There's a thread of romance running through the story that's good: well-balanced and realistic.
The murder plotting felt manipulated, as though the author thought "I'm going to twist this up so much NOBODY is going to get it!". I didn't get it, that's for sure, but I'm not sure I actually bought it either. It left me thinking "oh.", not "oh, wow!".
Plantation Shudders was an Agatha finalist for Best First Mystery, and I can see why; even though it might not be the strongest in plotting, the author infuses a depth into the story and the characters by seamlessly interweaving topics like autism and cancer that never feels overdone. There's a richness to the writing that is definitely appealing and I enjoyed this book enough to eagerly look forward to her second.
I'm using this book for my Genre: Mystery square in 2016 Halloween Book Bingo.