March on Barton Farm can only mean one thing: maple sugar season. To combat the winter slump, resilient director Kelsey Cambridge organizes a Maple Sugar Festival, complete with school visits, pancake breakfasts, and a tree-tapping class. She hires curmudgeonly maple sugar expert Dr. Conrad Beeson to teach the workshop, despite misgivings over his unpleasant demeanor. It’s a decision Kelsey ends up regretting when, before the first tree can be tapped for sap, Dr. Beeson turns up dead. His death threatens to shut down not only the festival, but also Barton Farm itself. Kelsey has no choice but to tap for the truth and solve the murder to escape an increasingly sticky situation.
Sissy: I quite liked the setting of The Final Tap. Barton Farm, a non-profit living history location in Northern Ohio sounds lovely and picturesque. I also enjoyed learning so much about maple sugaring and maple syrup tapping. Those are two different processes, right? Maybe I didn’t learn enough…
Bubby: Yes, they’re different. Tapping is getting the raw sap out of the tree and sugaring is condensing it down to a syrup.
Sissy: Thank you, Professor Maple Buns.
Bubby: You asked. Besides which, Mr. Bubby is the resident expert, not me. He spent a couple of years living in Vermont and upstate New York and it turned him into a maple syrup aficionado. It’s now one of those things that we always have on hand. His current favorite treat is vanilla ice cream with maple syrup poured over the top. In fact he used so much last night, it’s time to get a new bottle. We use Hidden Springs Vermont Maple Syrup.
Sissy: But we digress….Besides the setting, I also enjoyed the rather unique and gruesome murder method and weapon (shakes things up a bit in the Cozy Mystery world). Dr. Beeson, our unfortunate victim, was one of those beings who invites thoughts of murder with their unpleasant behavior. Sadly, the murderer went beyond thoughts and into actions.
Bubby: The budding romance between Kelsey and Chase is so sweet and subtle. I loved that Chase had nothing to do with the murder investigation or even the maple farm, really. He’s just there whenever Kelsey needs him, and he’s so patient while he waits for her heart to heal from her divorce. Kelsey’s son is just the cutest, too.
Sissy: Speaking of just the cutest, or rather the opposite thereof, Kelsey’s ex hubby and girlfriend made my teeth grind. Why, why, why are some people completely meddling and obnoxious just to be completely meddling and obnoxious? And if you want more obnoxious, you have Kelsey’s neighbors as exhibit A. On the other hand, there are plenty of good characters lurking around Barton Farm to get to know. Plus Civil War reenactments. So, The Final Tap has characters to love and hate, an interesting setting, and historical flavor to go along with a juicy, twisty, murder mystery. What more could you ask for?
Bubby: The Final Tap is book two in the Living History Museum series (The Final Reveille is the first one), and Amanda Flower has also written several other series that look very interesting. Great characters, great plot, great cozy!
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