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Nacho Average Murder: 07/14/22
Nacho Average Murder by Maddie Day and Laurel Merlington (Narrator) is the seventh book in the Country Store mystery series. It's a departure from the previous volumes because it's set in and around Santa Barbara while Robbie is visiting for a high school reunion. When a man dies in a way similar to Robbie's mother after he tells her his belief that poison was involved, she sets out to solve his murder in the short time she has remaining in California.
In every other mystery I've read, maybe a dozen total, that take place somewhere far afield of the series' usual locations, the narrative includes some excuse for the main character to travel with the majority of the ensemble cast of characters developed over time. Usually it's something like a conference, a cruise, or in the case of the Cupcake Bakery mysteries, a business trip. Nacho Average Murder, though, keeps with its title (which also relates to the restaurant associated with the B&B where Robbie stays), by creating entirely new characters to help investigate.
Another difference is that Robbie's past childhood in Santa Barbara was established from the very first book, Flipped for Murder. Her memories about life in California are a consistent part of Robbie's character. So having her spend an entire book back home doesn't feel like a stretch as it does in other books, Bloodroot by Susan Wittig Albert (2003), for example.
So while the book is a departure with a different setting and different characters, it still reads like a Country Store mystery. Robbie talks shop with various restaurant owners and workers as she investigates. She's as familiar with the setting as she is in South Lick. Thus the change in location doesn't affect the overall expected ebb and flow of the mystery plot points.
Clearly the author knows and loves Santa Barbara and its neighboring communities. She writes with knowledge, seamlessly weaving in her fictional additions to a landscape full of actual landmarks one can visit. But where the audiobook falters is in the narrator's inability to pronounce Goleta (the town where the airport is) correctly. She repeatedly calls it Go-letta instead of Go-lee-tah which sounded like nails on a chalkboard in the middle of an otherwise delightful mystery. If I had read this book myself, I would be giving it five stars. The missing star is for the narrator and publisher not doing their research to learn how to make Robbie, a native of Santa Barbara actually sound like one.
The eighth book is Candy Slain Murder (2020).