This is the fourth book in the Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade series by JJ Cook. The story centers around fire chief Stella Griffin, some ghosts and a hooch war. By the way, that’s hooch as in moonshine, not any of the other terms you might be thinking of (money, female private parts, a loose woman, a scuzzy man or half of a K-9/cop duo). There’s also some stereotypical small town stuff (romance or the lack thereof, family issues, politics, misogyny and food) to round out the story. Oh, and of course there’s fires, a murder and Hero. Who’s Hero? The firehouse dog and my favorite part of the story, but we’ll get to that later. I don’t know how to talk about the mystery without giving things away, so I’m going to focus on a few main characters.
Stella. Stella drives me a bit nuts. She’s smart, savvy and has a good head on her shoulders. Except when she’s alone or with the ghost of the former firehouse chief, Eric. Then, Stella loses any trace of common sense that she formerly had. Fires? Those she can handle. Investigating with (living) friends/coworkers? She’s a boss. The rest of the time her sense takes a vacation. I guess if I was being nice I’d say that her problem is that she has zero regards for her own safety. I want to be nice, so let’s go with that.
Eric is a decent character. I don’t think I’d mind having him as a housemate, especially since he can cook. Check that; Eric is a great cook. Who wouldn’t want a ghost that can cook? Oh, he can also move things around, so you wouldn’t have to carry in the groceries either. He’s attached to his fire badge, so as long as you have that, he can travel with you. Granted, he shorts out electronics if he gets to close to them, but I think I’d be able to live with that. He’s missing at the beginning of the story, but eventually comes back. Which is great for Stella since she can’t cook. Okay, she also thinks of him as a friend and he’s basically the only friend she has. So, thanks for putting up with Stella, Eric.
How about we focus on the best character in the book? That would be Hero, the dalmatian. I might be biased as a dog lover, but Hero truly has more intelligence than anyone else. We know this due to his interactions with Eric the ghost. Yes, Eric speaks dog. Since I just finished the book, the interaction that stand out to me is one near the end of the book. Eric asks Stella if he should put frosting on a cake. Stella says no because it might make the cake too sweet and Hero puts his head into his paws. Eric says, “I know. Who doesn’t like frosting?” The dog is smarter than you, Stella!
Overall this was a decent cozy mystery and I’ll probably read the next book. Maybe Stella will actually take care of herself next time, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.