Ghost Next Door is part of the Alice MacDonald Greer Mystery Series by Helen Currie Foster, a group of cozies set in the Hill Country of Texas.
Alice, an attorney in the small town of Coffee Creek, where she’s settled after her husband died, has just helped a client, Caswell Bond, buy a ranch adjoining land owned by his family. The secret transaction has prevented others in town, especially Clay Black, president of Cowman’s Bank, from finding out.
However, the secret is soon out—along with literal and figurative knives. Alice, making her rounds of the First Annual Coffee Creek Barbecue Competition as chair of the Rules Committee, soon literally falls over the body of much-disliked food reviewer John Pine. When suspicion falls on Alice’s friend M.A. Ellison, Alice begins searching for the real killer—and finds herself a target.
Small-town politics (Alice’s close friend Red Griffin runs for the electric co-op board against the well-connected Clay Black) and old family secrets (why the Bonds kept their purchase of the Tindall ranch so quiet) contribute to the tension, as Alice wades through eddies of vitriol to find the killer.
Suspense in the story is diluted by chapters that all end on weak notes, failing to pull the reader on. Attempts to throw reader suspicion on others are not developed well enough; the reader identifies the killer far too early in the book.
However, Currie Foster’s description of place is excellent. (“Off to the east the rim of the sun hurled light across the plains and onto the faces of the mountains.”) Her characters are likeable and relatable. And readers will want to see more of local winery owner and retired football great Eddie LaFarge, and Red Griffin, who runs a rescue ranch for abused horses.
All in all, The Ghost Next Door is a fun read and a nice addition to the genre.
Also available as an ebook.