Kind of boring Wisconsin but keeps you guessing: Uncommon Grounds by Sandra Balzo

** ½

cover balzoPart of my Mysterious USA Challenge

Macavity Award Nominee for Best First Mystery Novel (2005),

Anthony Award Nominee for Best First Novel (2005)

Maybe I’m being a little unfair. It’s not that Uncommon Grounds as a mystery novel is boring, it’s more that Wisconsin is not depicted as a very fun or interesting place.

I will admit that I didn’t figure out who did it until it was revealed at the end of the novel, so it did keep me guessing, which is something novels that I’ve read for this challenge with a more interesting backdrop did not do. So there’s that…which is pretty big for a mystery novel.

Part of the Maggy Thorsen series, this book introduces the unlikely sleuth: a recently divorced former PR exec opening a coffee shop with two partners in the town of Brookhills, Wisconsin.

On the morning of the grand opening, one of the partners, Patricia Harper, is found dead on the floor of the shop and suspects abound.

A good spin on the traditional cozy—Balzo replaces tea with coffee—Uncommon Grounds follows Maggy as she scrambles to find Patricia’s killer and uncovers the secrets that every small town has from adultery to political corruption, and everything in between. The ending comes as a good surprise, and overall is a satisfying read; you don’t figure out who did it, but when it is revealed you feel like you were given enough clues.

The plot and characters are interesting and well thought out. I may read the second book in the series in the future.

However, I didn’t feel like this book was quite what I was looking for in this challenge. Brookhills, Wisconsin seems to be like every other suburban town in the U.S., with strip malls and not much else. While this generic backdrop may be good for letting readers feel like it could be their own suburban town, it was not what I wanted.

I am open to suggestions for other mysteries set in Wisconsin that are more representative of the state and its people.

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