by Sandra Murphy
For our second group of Penguin mysteries this year we have several fun food mysteries & many include recipes too! Eggs in a Casket by Laura Childs, Home of the Braised by Julie Hyzy, Pecan Pies and Homicide by Ellery Adams, and Tapestry of Lies by Carol Ann Martin. Details on how to win a copy of all of these books at the end of this post.
Eggs in a Casket by Laura Childs
Review by Sandra Murphy
You’d think you could deliver flowers to the site of a Historical Society event, held at the local cemetery, without running into a dead body–well, a newly dead body left in the open grave that belongs to someone else. However, there’s ex-prison warden Lester Drummond, cold as a mackerel and just as dead, right there in the grave.
Lester had a number of enemies so the field is wide open for murder suspects. It’s not 100% certain that it was murder though. It appears that Lester quit breathing (a given) and his heart quit beating (again) but why? There are marks of a taser, so that sends the vote to murder rather than natural death.
Lester sued the prison board of directors for firing him, so there are a couple of suspects, especially the slimy lawyer, Allan. He’s gloating that Lester is dead. Jake, the artist with PTSD, would know how to do it and he did spent eight months at the prison. Lester’s ex-wife sure has zoomed in and taken charge, probably in hopes of getting an inheritance. Lester didn’t make any friends at the gym either–he worked out nearly every day, more than once. That’s just not good for anybody.
Suzanne, Toni and Petra own and run the Cackleberry Club Café with the adjoining knitting shop and book store. It’s an upscale diner that features eggs and chicken as a mainstay of the menu and the décor. Suzanne is involved with Sam, Petra is a widow and Toni, well, her status is complicated. She and Junior got married in Vegas, but have lived apart more than together. His hare-brained schemes fall flat and usually involve Toni bailing him out. Still, he is hard to resist, even with the idea of a fake car battery to hide a six pack of beer if you want to sneak it into the movies. He has no explanation for why anyone would carry a car battery into the movies of course; he just knows he has a million dollar idea on his hands.
Sheriff Doogie is on the job. His main suspect is Missy. Lester had been stalking her and she was seen by several people, including Suzanne and Toni, leaving the cemetery like a bat gone wild. She nearly sideswiped Suzanne’s car as she roared past. Suzanne is determined to clear Missy’s name.
Doogie stops to help someone on the side of the road and is found with a concussion and broken ribs. He’s not able to say who did it though. The Deputy who inherits the case doesn’t have nearly the experience Doogie has and is in a panic. Suzanne’s got her work cut out for her this time.
I’ve read Laura Childs’ tea shop mysteries and the scrapbooking mysteries (reviewed for KRL) and enjoyed them. I’ve stayed away from this series though with the thought that it would be too cutesy. I was wrong! The Café is a place I’d like to go eat, the people are a fun group, Junior –well, you’d just want to see what he’d do next. The kitsch works in this series.
Recipes in the back of the book include: white bean breakfast hash, chocolate chip quinoa cookies, stuffed pepper soup, chicken meatloaf, breakfast BLT, bacon cornbread, crazy quilt bread, cranberry muffins, goat cheese and pimento tea sandwiches, easy cream scones, no bake peanut butter fudge, pineapple dump cake, beer-battered chicken. There’s also a list of resources and interesting food blogs and an excerpt of the next book, Steeped in Evil.
There are fourteen tea shop mysteries, eleven scrapbooking mysteries, and four other Cackleberry Club mysteries. They’re addictive!
Home of the Braised by Julie Hyzy
Review by Sandra Murphy
White House Chef Olivia (Ollie to her friends) Paras has her hands full in the latest book. Virgil, personally hired by the First Family, is in the kitchen and it seems, to stay. He’s obnoxious, overbearing and definitely not a team player. He’s out for himself only and makes sure everyone knows it. Bucky and Cyan are in fine form although fed up with Virgil.
Peter Everett Sargeant III, has been promoted from sensitivity officer to head usher, although for the moment he’s holding down both jobs. Still, he’s not as insufferable as he was and compared to Virgil, is a prince.
There’s a big state dinner in the works, short notice due to peace talks that have finally fallen into place. It’s the kitchen’s responsibility to make sure there are no snafus with the food, décor or guest satisfaction. Josh, the president’s son, has apprenticed himself in the kitchen and is learning the basics from Ollie. He will help with prep work during the big dinner, his two Secret Service agents by his side at every move.
In addition to the Secret Service, Kalto, a private security service–some might say, mercenaries– have been added to the security detail at the White House. The government has a contract with them for foreign protections services, but the peace talks call for withdrawal of troops and security so the agents have been reassigned.
Ollie and Gav are finally, officially, engaged. They plan on keeping the engagement short and hope to be married as soon as the license is ready to pick up. Three days turns into three business days and that turns into weeks as there’s a backlog of weddings scheduled. No one likes the idea of an online Wedding Officiant.
When Gav gets a phone call from an old friend and colleague, he remembers Evan is a minister–problem solved! That plan goes out the window when Gav and Ollie go see Evan and instead, find his body along with four others. A Secret Service team is there instantly, in haz mat gear, and everything’s hit the fan once again.
As the state dinner grows close, the Secretary of State is found dead in his home. First reported as a heart attack, the truth comes out–he was murdered! Secrets within secrets, top clearance needed, it’s a mess to try to figure out.
Once again, Ollie’s right in the middle of it. One can only hope this president gets re-elected so the books continue.
Recipes are included: braised chuck roast, herb-roasted pheasant with wild rice stuffing, sautéed spinach, molasses whipped sweet potatoes, baby golden beets and green beans, and lemon steamed pudding. The recipes are from the White House and each tells when it was served there.
Previous books include: State of the Onion, Hail to the Chef, Eggsecutive Orders, Buffalo West Wing, Affairs of Steak, Fonduing Fathers.
Hzyz also writes the Manor House Mysteries—Grace Under Pressure, Grace Interupted, Grace Among Thieves, Grace Takes Off.
Pecan Pies and Homicide by Ellery Adams
Review by Sandra Murphy
Ella Mae has been in a funk since her mother became the Lady of the Ash. Her pie bakery business is down, there’s no magic in the food and she’s not speaking for the Lady, which lessens her mother’s sacrifice. It’s time to snap out of it!
The town of Havenwood is set to welcome magical people who have lost their own grove to a fire–arson–a truly cruel act since no grove means no magic. The question is, will they unknowingly welcome the arsonist? One of Ella Mae’s aunts has the magical ability to know when someone is lying, so that will come in handy as long as they can get a direct answer to a hinted question.
The Lady of the Ash would certainly have to approve the move and that means Ella Mae has to visit her mother and then take her own place as spokeswoman for the Lady. It also means entering into an uneasy truce with the Gaynors, longtime enemies of the LeFaye family.
The Gaynors are not only the elite in town, but also are reported to have a book that has directions to release Ella Mae’s mother and protect the townspeople and their magic. Ella Mae crashes the party thrown by the Gaynor’s. She’s back!
It seems there is a flower at the bottom of the lake. In order for the tree to release her mother, Ella Mae must get the flower and take it to their grove. Never mind, it’s mid-winter and the lake water is frigid or that a monster guards the flower. It’s now or never as her mother fades more each day.
To complicate matters, Ella Mae meets a delightful young ballerina at the party who seems overshadowed by her wheelchair-bound older husband. When her body is found, frozen, just a matter of inches from the opening to the grove, no one can believe it was suicide or an accident. Her husband is the logical suspect, but it’s clear she was carried to the area so not so logical after all.
This is the third in the series and I believe, the best one yet. The characters are more developed though as likable as ever. There’s more action, romance and a sense of completion after the buildup in the first two books. As usual, there are recipes in the back of the book, a good thing because reading about Ella Mae’s pies will have you drooling on the page. There’s Red Hot Apple Pie made with candy “red hots,” meat pies made with paprika aioli, mini maple pecan pies, maple whipped cream, apple pear cherry crisp and heart-shaped white chocolate raspberry cream two-bite pies.
Although this book answers a lot of questions and feels like a completion, Adams assures there are more Charmed Pie Shoppe mysteries to come. Adams also writes the Books by the Bay Mysteries. However, she has added a third set of characters you’ll want to meet in the new Book Resort series. Find an excerpt of the first, Murder in the Mystery Suite, to tease and enjoy if you can get past the recipes!
Tapestry of Lies by Carol Ann Martin
Review by Sandra Murphy
This is the second book in the series (Looming for Murder was reviewed for KRL), and the characters get better and better. Della’s shop is closer to making money rather than breaking even; Jenny’s coffee, tea, pastries, fortune telling shop in the back is booming in spite of the Coffee Break shop just down the street. Marnie does all the baking for Jenny. She’d had an offer to bake for the Coffee Break but the owners, the McDermott’s, managed to get all her recipes and then decided to bake the muffins, cakes and pies themselves.
Della doesn’t know whether to be ecstatic or afraid when Bunny Body, an interior designer with her own television show, stops by and asks for the largest custom order for fabric Della’s ever had or heard of. Bunny is decorating the mansion of Bernard Whitby, local millionaire and aspiring governor.
Della’s just purchased a new loom–it’s huge–and perfect for the custom work. She’s arranged for weavers to help, calculated the yarn needed and then waits, waits and waits for Bunny to pay the non-refundable deposit and sign the contract. Maybe Jenny’s premonition of a bad end to the deal is right and she should just walk away. On the other hand, it could make her business an over-the-top success.
Della’s still, um, interested in–not the right word, neither is “in love”–and “in like” is too weak, Matthew. Let’s face it, after all the interference from Della’s mother and Matthew’s, it’s hard for either of them to admit any feelings for the other although they’re the only ones who don’t see it. Even Winston the dog has his ideas about the whole thing. Speaking of Winston, a French Bulldog, he steals every scene, just like in the last book and this time, has a romantic interest of his own.
Whitby opens his mansion for a party for the whole town in order to announce his decision to run for governor. During the party, attended by several hundred people, an antique gun is stolen. When Phillip McDermott is shot and killed by a skilled marksman, everyone wonders if the stolen gun was the murder weapon.
McDermott was more than a coffee shop owner. He had a photography studio in the next town, to be more discreet, and compiled compromising photos of a lot of women. Blackmail was just a sideline benefit. One of the women is a local girl who aspires to be a fashion model. Another is the wife of Whitby’s opponent. Her photos aren’t nudes, but photos of her with Whitby–a surefire way to ruin her husband’s campaign.
Instead of narrowing the suspect list, it grows and grows. When Rhonda McDermott is killed with the same weapon, it looks like blackmail is once again the motive.
Della is good at figuring out clues to the murder. She doesn’t put herself into crazily dangerous situations although she does do a few things that Matthew considers beyond the pale. If only she could figure out relationships as well.
There’s a satisfying ending, new characters introduced who are likable and hopefully around for the next book and more, and the tease of romance not fulfilled. Weaving tips are found at the back of the book. Now if we just had Marnie’s recipe for white chocolate blueberry muffins, the book would be complete!
To enter to win a copy of all 4 mysteries, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Food Penguin,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen February 1, 2014. U.S. residents only.
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