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Reviewed by Liz Konkel for Readers' Favorite
Herbs and Homicide: A Small Town Contemporary Cozy Mystery by Carly Winter is the first book in the Heywood Herbalist Cozy Mystery series. Sam has moved to Heywood to put the past behind her – the prying eyes of Hollywood and the fraudulent mess her husband dragged her into. She's looking to start over and to be someone else – Sam Jones, a woman who has no scandalous past. A second chance comes in the form of a new job and a boss teaching her all there is to know about herbs. Her new life quickly takes a turn for the worse when her boss is found dead and the cops seem to think she's the one responsible. Once again she finds herself at the center of unwanted attention and her only chance to keep her new life is to find the truth and catch a killer.
Starting over is never easy and for Sam, it means moving to a new town with a new name, but the past still haunts her. The story has a dramatic opening as she nearly hits a deer and you're propelled into Sam's life which has seen a similar dramatic upheaval by moving to this small town. Herbs and Homicide explores her transition from a lavish lifestyle to a much simpler one. Carly Winter captures the genuine shock and almost whiplash that comes with making such a drastic change, beautifully seen in subtle moments such as Sam using the term claustrophobia to describe her new living arrangement. Second chances are a prominent theme with different elements representing this in Sam's life such as Sage Advice (the shop she works at), her boss that taught her everything she knew, her new name, and the town of Heywood. Each of these elements works toward her finding a place for herself where she can reinvent who she is and start thinking about the future with optimism.
The story has an upbeat tone that is typical of the cozy genre though Winter adds a unique quality to it through the use of herbs. The characters are charming and help establish the endearing aesthetic of the town while also giving a long list of suspects. The death of her boss throws her back into the limelight with unwanted attention which adds conflict to her life and gives her the drive to keep this new life. A delightful start to a new series, this book blends a cozy mystery with herbalism and second chances.