Book Review: The Cantaloupe Thief by Deb Richardson-Moore

July 18, 2016 Christian, contemporary, cozy mystery, Deb Richardson-Moore, mystery 0

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about the book

Branigan Powers knows a good story when she sees one—and the ten-year-old cold case of wealthy Alberta Grambling Resnick’s murder definitely makes the cut. Resnick was stabbed in her home after she let it slip that she was planning to change her will. There are plenty of suspects in the death of the matriarch of the town’s founding family, but the killer has never been caught.
Now Branigan must do some serious digging to get her story. She knows the town’s homeless community might have seen something; she also knows that the local cops wouldn’t have thought of questioning these often-invisible people. There’s a big problem, though: as Branigan starts digging, the homeless start dying. When her twin brother, a long-time addict, gets involved, the consequences of her investigation may hit a little too close to home.
Set in the fictional small town of Grambling, Georgia, The Cantaloupe Thief is the first in a new mystery series by Deb Richardson-Moore. The author is herself a former journalist and works extensively with the homeless, lending weight to the portrayal of a believable and engaging whodunit.

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SERIES: Branigan Powers Mystery #1
GENRE: Mystery, Christian Fiction
PUBLISHER: Lion Fiction/Kregel Publications
RELEASE DATE: June 27, 2016
PAGES: 288

“The worst thing about being homeless is being looked right through.”

Deb Richardson-Moore’s debut fiction novel The Cantaloupe Thief is a fantastic example of the classic advice to “write what you know”.  A former journalist, Deb is now a pastor who has works with the homeless. In The Cantaloupe Thief, we see the merging of each of these worlds … as well as a stellar mystery that will keep surprising you.

Cantaloupe Thief book reviewI love how the details of the cold-case murder are revealed in layers, sometimes through chapters that put us at the scene ten years ago and sometimes through interviews with people who are somehow involved. This helps the mystery to continue being “mysterious” as well as letting us the readers become amateur detectives of a sort along with newspaper reporter Branigan Powers.  And while we’re all trying to figure out the cold case, more murders keep piling up in the present day. Related? Maybe. Maybe not. We have to Branigan has to figure that out too.

The Cantaloupe Thief is part cozy mystery, part southern fiction, and part eye-opener.  The cozy mystery and southern fiction aspects are fairly obvious – amateur sleuth, loyal pet, small town in Georgia. But Deb Richardson-Moore takes us deeper than either of those genres usually dare to go by giving us a glimpse into the lives of those who so often remain invisible – the homeless and the addicted.

Through the compassion of the author’s writing style, through the individual cadence of the characters, and through the humanity she breathes into each of them, Deb Richardson-Moore reminds us that there but for the grace of God go any of us.  Yes, there are some people living on the streets and under bridges and in shelters who have made bad choices. But, haven’t we all? Yes, there are some people living on the streets and under bridges and in shelters who have let desperation guide their behavior. But, again, haven’t we all? And, yes, there are some people living on the streets and under bridges and in shelters who are intelligent and hard-working and have been dealt one too many harsh hands in life.  You will meet people in each of these categories on the pages of The Cantaloupe Thief, as well as people who have been moved with compassion to love them as God has loved us.

In The Cantaloupe Thief, Deb Richardson-Moore gives the homeless names and faces and hearts and dreams and minds. Along those lines, Malachi is probably my favorite character in this book. He is so multi-dimensional and intriguing, and I would be drawn to a friendship with him if I met someone like him in real life. If this is, as I hope, the first in a series, I also hope that Malachi continues to make appearances.

Bottom Line: An extremely well-plotted mystery that will keep you guessing right until the resolution, The Cantaloupe Thief is cozy… but at the same time it won’t totally allow you to relax.  After all, it’s a book about addiction and the desperate places it takes you. It’s a book about loving those who can tear your heart out the most. It’s about SEEING humanity – our richest and our poorest (in body and spirit) – and the Divine commission to love as He has loved us. But it’s also, yes, a murder mystery with plenty of investigative twists and turns that will have you reading well into the night.  The faith element is subtle but poignant, particularly with Liam and his family, and I’m interested to see how this may develop further in future books in the series.

(I received a copy of this book in exchange for only my honest review.)

My Rating: 4 stars / Enjoyed it!

Reviewer’s Note: There is some scattered profanity throughout (a bit like you’d hear in an average hour long TV drama) but it’s otherwise “clean”.

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about the author

deb richardson-moore

Deb Richardson-Moore is the author of a 2012 memoir, The Weight of Mercy, and a novel, The Cantaloupe Thief, released in June 2016. Both are published by Lion Hudson of Oxford, England. She worked for 27 years as a writer for The Greenville News, covering art, theater, general features and religion.

Deb also serves as pastor of the non-denominational Triune Mercy Center in Greenville, South Carolina, where she works to make homeless parishioners feel respected, loved – and deserving of a pastor who dresses up for them, even in high heels. She is a Greenville native and a graduate of Wake Forest University (Winston-Salem, NC) and Erskine Theological Seminary (Due West, SC).

Deb is married to Vince Moore, who is director of media relations for Furman University. They have three grown children – Dustin, Taylor, and Madison. Connect with Deb at her website.

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Carrie

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