The Moonshine Shack Murder
About The Moonshine Shack Murder
In this intoxicating new cozy mystery series, the future for modern-day moonshiner Hattie Hayes looks bright--until death darkens the doorstep of her Moonshine Shack.
The Hayes family has made moonshine in Chattanooga since the days of Prohibition, and Hattie is happy to continue the tradition, serving up fun, fruity flavors in mason jars for locals and tourists alike. All signs indicate her new 'shine shop will be a smashing success. What's more, mounted police officer Marlon Landers has taken a shine to Hattie. For the first time ever, the stars seemed to have aligned in both her work and romantic life. But when a body ends up on her store's doorstep alongside a broken jar of her Firefly Moonshine, it just might be lights out for her fledgling business.
The homicide detective can't seem to identify the person who killed the owner of a nearby bar. The only witness is Hattie's longhaired gray cat, and Smoky isn't talking. When the detective learns that the victim and Hattie had a heated exchange shortly before his murder, she becomes her prime suspect.
Lest Hattie end up behind bars like her bootlegging great-grandfather a century before, she must distill the evidence herself and serve the killer a swift shot of justice.
About Diane Kelly
Diane Kelly writes stories that feature feisty female lead characters and their furry, four-footed friends. Diane is the author of over 30 novels and novellas, including the Death & Taxes, Paw Enforcement, and House Flipper mystery series. In 2021, she’ll launch two new series, the Southern Homebrew moonshine series and the Mountain Lodge Mysteries. Find Diane online at DianeKelly.com, on Twitter and Instagram @DianeKellyBooks, and on Facebook at her Author Diane Kelly page.
The Moonshine Shack Murder by Diane Kelly is an entertaining new cozy mystery. Hattie Hayes is opening the Moonshine Shack in Chattanooga, Tennessee where she will be selling her Firefly Moonshine. Her great-grandfather made moonshine during prohibition and Hattie is getting back into the business thanks to the recipes taught to her by her Granddaddy. Late one night after her grand opening, Hattie wakes up wondering if she properly locked up the shop. Hattie is in the storeroom when she hears odd noises outside. She looks outside the window to find the owner of Limericks bleeding out on the ground. Unfortunately, Hattie is at the top of Detective Ace Pearce’s suspect list. If Hattie does not want to end up in jail like her great-grandfather, she will need to find the bar owner’s killer. The Moonshine Shack Murder is fun story. I thought it was well-written and moved along at a quick pace. I like Hattie Hayes and her grandfather, Ben. Hattie is a savvy businesswoman as well as a warm, kind lady. I find Hattie’s granddaddy a hoot. He is feisty and a talented whittler. I like the variety of characters in the story including Hattie’s best friends. The author’s descriptive writing brought Chattanooga to life as well as the Moonshine Shack. Hattie has a love interest in Officer Marlon Landers, a mounted police officer. I did feel that there was too much romance for my liking (I prefer slow moving romances that play out over the course of the series) especially with Hattie a prime suspect in the murder. The whodunit was well thought it. I like how it was set up with the various suspects, misdirection, and the clues. There were more suspects than varieties of moonshine available at the Moonshine Shack. Avid mystery readers, though, will have no problem identifying the guilty party early on in the story. The why takes longer to figure out. I had a good time following Hattie as she questioned people and collected clues. It was interesting learning about moonshine. I had no idea there were so many varieties available. I am looking forward to the next book in A Southern Homebrew Mystery series. The Moonshine Shack Murder is a quaint Southern cozy mystery with modern moonshine, jealous girlfriends, an unscrupulous bar owner, a compassionate mounted officer, a gutsy grandfather, and a merry moonshine maker.
Rise and Shine Blueberry Moonshine Muffins
By Diane Kelly
Moonshine isn’t just for drinking! It can be incorporated into recipes, too. You’ll love these muffins. They’re great for breakfast or tea-time. Add the optional glaze to make an even sweeter treat.
2 tablespoons fruit-flavored moonshine
½ cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1 cup almond milk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 cups unbleached cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
⅔ cup canola oil or melted coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup granulated sugar
Sweet and Shiny Glaze (optional):
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons fruit-flavored moonshine
2 tablespoons almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease a muffin pan or line with paper cups.
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Use an electric mixer to mix the vanilla, sugar, almond milk, lemon juice, and the canola or coconut oil. When well combined, add the dry ingredients. Mix on low speed for one minute. Scrape the bowl and mix on high speed for an additional minute. Stir in the blueberries by hand.
Fill the muffin cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake the muffins for approximately 18 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the muffins cool completely before you add the optional glaze.
To make the glaze, whisk the powdered sugar, moonshine, almond milk, and vanilla until creamy. Use a spoon to drizzle the glaze over the muffins.
The machinery sloshed, whirred, jangled, and clinked as I stood in breathless anticipation at the end of the conveyer belt on the factory floor. Where is it? Come on! After another jangle and clink, the rubber safety strips that hung over the machine’s exit hatch swung outward, and there it was—the first jar of my Firefly brand moonshine, the mason jar’s aluminum lid sparkling in the light from the fixtures overhead.
“Woo-hoo!” I threw my fists in the air and snatched the jar from the belt, planting a big kiss on the label before hugging it to my chest. Melodramatic maybe, but this jar had been years in the making. I’d invested my heart, soul, blood, sweat, and tears into my new moonshine business, not to mention every last cent I’d saved and then some. The first payment on my bank loan would be due in two short weeks. Good thing my Moonshine Shack would be ready to open for business first thing Monday morning, only three days from now.
I slipped the inaugural jar of shine in my tote bag and readied a cardboard box. Another jar exited the hatch and began its journey down the metal rollers, shimmying like one of Beyoncé’s backup dancers. I grabbed the jar and tucked it into a corner of the box, adding eleven more as they jiggled their way toward me over the next two minutes. The ancient bottling machine wasn’t fast, but it was efficient enough for my small-batch operation and the factory manager had charged me a fair price to use it.
A quick zip-zip with the strapping tape dispenser and the box was sealed and ready to be loaded into my secondhand cargo van for transport to my shop. I’d had the van painted day-glow green and affixed magnetic signs with my Firefly Moonshine logo to both sides. Might as well advertise my wares while I drove around town, right? My good friend Kiki, a freelance artist, had designed the whimsical logo for me. The graphic featured two flirty cartoon fireflies writing in fluorescent green against a midnight blue background. The first firefly used his bright behind to spell FIREFLY. The other used her dazzling derriere to spell MOONSHINE. The image was cute and eye-catching, perfect for my products.
The floor supervisor circled around to check on things. “Everything all right over here, Miss Hayes?”
My dark curls bobbed as I turned to him. “Looking good!” I pointed to the carton at my feet. “My first case. Isn’t it marvelous?”
He chuckled. “Never seen anyone get so excited about their products.”
I shrugged. “What can I say? Moonshine’s in my blood.”
It was true, figuratively and, sometimes, literally. Back in the days of prohibition, my great-granddaddy was the number-one bootlegger in the region, the primary supplier of hooch all the way from his hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee south to the Chattahoochee River in Georgia. He’d made a small fortune before the sheriff arrested him. While my great-grandfather lost the fortune to revenuers, homestead laws allowed him to hang on to his rustic cabin in the Smoky Mountains and the rusty still hidden among the pine trees at the back of his property. He’d passed the cabin, the still, and the secrets of making shine along to my granddaddy, who’d passed them down to me when he’d moved into the Singing River Retirement Home a few years ago.
Yep, making moonshine was a family tradition, and it was high time the Hayes family started making money at it again.
With money-making in mind, I drove my van to the Moonshine Shack late Friday afternoon. The place was adorable, if I do say so myself. I’d hired a carpenter to create a front façade that resembled a hillbilly house. He’d fashioned an awning of spare boards that appeared haphazardly nailed together for effect, but which was completely up to code and had easily passed inspection. The words MOONSHINE SHACK were spelled out in neon-green glow-in-the-dark letters over the awning. I’d situated a couple of wooden rockers and a porch swing out front to entice tourists to sit a spell. Shamelessly stealing an idea from the Cracker Barrel restaurants, I’d also set out a small table and two stools so customers could challenge each other to a game of checkers, chess, or cards. I wanted the ‘Shine Shack to be a comfortable, inviting place with a casual country charm. But, even more, I wanted it to be a smashing success. I’d left a secure job with Chattanooga Bakery, Inc., maker of the world-famous MoonPie, and sacrificed a regular paycheck and the promise of a pension. I’d hate for it to have been for naught.
I circled around to the alley, parked, and hopped out to unlock the back door that led to the storeroom. My gray cat Smoky, named for the nearby mountains, lay atop the wooden desk in the corner, watching me with his firefly-green eyes as he lazily licked a paw. The cat weighed upwards of sixteen pounds and, unless food was in the offing, rarely moved, more cinder block than companion. I greeted him, as always, with an affectionate scratch under the chin and a “Hey, boy. Did you miss me?” His yawn told me that my absence had not affected him in the least. Hurtful, sure, but I’d long since accepted that ours would be a one-sided relationship.
Even with help from a dolly, moving the cases from the van to the storeroom proved to be backbreaking work. The muscles in my arms strained and shook, unused to being punished so severely. Smoky cast me a look of disdain each time I groaned or grunted. Next batch, I’d box the moonshine in smaller cases of six jars rather than twelve.
As I rolled the dolly outside to round up more moonshine, my ears picked up an unexpected sound. Clop-clop-clop. I turned to discover a mounted police officer riding up the alleyway on a beautiful chestnut mare. The horse’s reddish-brown coat gleamed in the sunshine as she tossed her flaxen mane. The officer wore his uniform with black riding boots, a helmet, and mirrored sunglasses. Despite being built like a sculpted boulder, he rode with a graceful athleticism, at one with his steed.
Clop-clop. When they reached me, the officer pulled back on the reins and spoke to his horse. “Whoa, Charlotte. Let’s find out what this little filly is up to.”
It took me a moment to realize I was the “little filly” he spoke of. Standing a mere five feet, I was undeniably small. But I made up for my stature in tenacity and sass. I looked up at the officer to see a set of broad shoulders, a strong jaw, and myself looking back, reflected in his sunglasses. I angled my head to indicate his horse. “I see you’ve got a thing for leggy blondes.”
He sat silent and unmoving for a few beats before his lips spread in a slow smile. He ducked his chin and reached up to ease his sunglasses down, gazing at me over the rims, his amber eyes lit up like lightning bugs in amusement. His focus shifted to the logo on my van and the cartons of liquor before returning to my face. “A bootlegger, huh? I suspect you’ll cause me no end of trouble.”
The Avid Reader