Cranberry Bluff (by Deborah Garner)

I don't think I've come across Deborah Garner's writing before. But in browsing my Kindle for some free books, I came across 'Cranberry Bluff'. The blurb sounded interesting, the reviews were mostly positive, so I downloaded it, and have just finished reading it. I had entirely forgotten what it was about when I started.

Molly is the main character. She's a quiet, likeable person who works in a small town in the United States, running a bed and breakfast inn. We meet her as she's preparing for some new guests and quickly learn that she's picky about who she accepts. She clearly has some kind of past; this is explained gradually through the course of the book. She has moved from an administrative job in Florida some months earlier, as she was being hounded by unpleasant notes that were making her feel quite scared.

The guests seem to be a mixed and unassuming group. There are the newly-weds Dan and Susie, a somewhat flamboyant middle-aged woman called Sadie who loves to shop, a quiet, obsessive-compulsive man called Charlie Miller, and a good looking relaxed guy called Bryce. Bryce arrives long after the expected check-in time, and is evidently something of a ladies' man, so Molly finds it hard to be polite to him at first....

As the book progresses, it becomes apparent that more than one of the guests is not what they seem to be. I found it a bit confusing and several circumstances seemed rather too much of a coincidence; so much so that it began to feel almost like a Wodehouse farce, without the satire or humour. I don't think it was supposed to be that way; it's crime fiction of a kind, without any real mystery to solve.

I had been suspicious already before some of the twists and turns were revealed. However one event towards the end was surprising - and also rather puzzling, as it made no sense of what the character concerned had been doing previously.

I don't know that I'd recommend this particularly. The characterisation is mostly good, if caricatured in places, and the basic plot, once unravelled ,is nicely done. But some of the conversation is a bit stilted, some of it unnecessarily detailed, and I got rather bored of the descriptions of food, clothes, and repeated introspection on Molly's part.

Still, the ending is positive, with a nice light epilogue, and I did like the way that the book is entirely 'U' rated. There's no bad language, no intimate scenes, no violence. And there's a delightful bonus at the end: several delicious sounding recipes for foods which molly serves in the book, all of which include cranberries.

Review copyright 2018 Sue's Book Reviews

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