by Sandra Murphy
& Cynthia Chow
We end this first month of the new year with a fun group of mysteries released by Penguin and Kensington this month-Snow Way Out by Christine Husom, Lie of the Needle by Cate Price, All the President’s Menus: A White House Chef Mystery by Julie Hyzy, and Criminal Confections: A Chocolate Whisperer Mystery By Colette London. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 4 books, and a link to purchase them.
Snow Way Out by Christine Husom
Review by Sandra Murphy
Camryn Brooks owns a curio shop, but her specialty is snow globes. She has a whole collection and is hosting a class on how to make your own. Everybody’s up for a good time, especially if it will take their minds off the fact that Jerrell Powers is back in town. He’s a thief, and one people hoped would be gone forever. He says he’s reformed, but no one is buying that story.
When Camryn finds an extra snow globe on the shelf, she can’t figure out how it got there. She had just gone into the back of the store for a few minutes and the front door was locked. The snow globe depicts a man on a park bench, sound asleep. It’s unnerving to discover just such a scene on her walk home—except the guy in question isn’t asleep. He’s dead. He’s also Jerrell Powers.
There are more mysterious snow globes that appear and disappear, motives in abundance, a mysterious stranger, and a warm friendship among the characters. The shop sounds like a place you could spend an afternoon or more, just exploring all the knick knacks and snow globes, trying to decide which one to buy. There’s also a hint of romance.
This is the first in a new series. There are tips for making a snow globe at the back of the book but no hint as to when the next book will be out. I’m hoping for recipes, since one of the characters has a coffee shop next to Camryn’s curio shop.
Lie of the Needle: A Deadly Notions Mystery by Cate Price
Review by Sandra Murphy
A buyer’s finally come forward to purchase a two-hundred year old farmhouse and surrounding property that’s been on the market for a couple of years. While that’s good news for the farmer, it’s not so good for the village of Millbury, home to antique and sewing shop Sometimes A Great Notion, run by Daisy Buchanan. Beau Cassell plans to raze the house and put up condos. It will be a burden on the roads, schools, water systems—well, pretty much the only one to benefit will be Cassell, just like he plans. To make matters worse, workmanship on anything he builds is shoddy at best.
The ladies of the Historical Society have done the bake sales to raise money but now it’s time to get serious. They’ve convinced twelve of the hottest men in town to bare all (or mostly all, thanks to strategically placed props) for a Men of Millbury calendar. Walking his route must have been great exercise for the mail carrier—who knew? Even Daisy’s husband snags a month of his own. Still, the money shot is Daisy’s friend, Detective Serrano. He’s smokin’ hot and women are lining up for copies of the calendar—and maybe a peek in the window as the shoot is done. This could save the farm.
Alex Roos is the photographer. He’s umm, different, from his blond fuzz of hair to his green boots. However, the price was right and he is talented as well as being a world class flirt.
In previous books, Daisy’s friend Martha took on a new project—Cyril, owner of the local junk yard. A more unlikely pair couldn’t be found but they seem to be happy. Cyril has been convinced to pose for the calendar but both he and the photographer disappear the night of his photo shoot. Martha is dramatic at any time. In times of stress, she’s over the top and this counts as a time of total panic.
During the photo shoot at Ruth’s, Daisy stops in to visit with Stanley. Ruth and Stanley have been such a happy couple but Alzheimer’s has put a stop to that. Most days he doesn’t even recognize anyone. When Ruth steps out of the room with the nurse, Stanley has a seemingly lucid moment and tells Daisy, “She’s killing me!” Does he mean the nurse or Ruth? Before Daisy can decide for sure, Stanley dies.
Things go rapidly downhill after that. Ruth reveals she’s had a lover. He’s an investment counselor who disappeared when Stanley died—with all of Ruth’s personal money and even worse, all the Historical Society’s money. Ruth has the garage sale to end all sales in order to raise money to live on while she puts her house up for sale.
The description of the cold weather, snow and ice Daisy has to battle as she searches for clues will have you reaching for an afghan to keep yourself warm as you read. Daisy and Joe are such a good couple—fiftyish as Daisy says. They are affectionate and while each has separate interests—him, cooking and making miniature furniture, her, a shop that sells vintage sewing items and whatever catches her fancy—they clearly enjoy each other’s company. Martha is a little too dramatic but that is balanced out by the treats she brings to Daisy’s shop every day. Yes, there’s a recipe at the back of the book but it’s from their friend Eleanor! There’s one from Joe too—turkey chili. Cyril added his recipe for a Cockle-Warming Cocktail. If you’re not sure where your cockles are, see what warms up after drinking this combination of bourbon, brandy, Grand Marnier and a couple of surprise ingredients.
Price continues to deliver a great story, peopled by fun characters you’d like to meet and make your friends. History is woven into the storyline without inundating the reader with facts all in one lump. It all comes together, just in time for the holidays, with a satisfying ending I didn’t see coming. There are a couple of loose ends that I hope will come back around. Going Through the Notions (reviewed for KRL) and A Dollhouse to Die For were the first two books. You’ll want to put those on your must-have list too.
All the President’s Menus: A White House Chef Mystery by Julie Hyzy
Review by Cynthia Chow
It’s sequestration time in Washington D.C.! The White House kitchen is operating at the bare minimum, and if the sequestration lasts much longer Executive Chef Olivia “Ollie” Paras fears that she may lose her favorite assistant, who is on furlough. Despite the near shutdown, the fragile political relationship between the U.S. and Saardisca means that Ollie is forced into welcoming four visiting Saardiscan chefs into her kitchen for a previously canceled two-week visit. Their patriarchal and distrustful attitudes are sure to make Ollie’s life difficult, especially when her pastry chef, Marcel, collapses for unexplained reasons.
The arrival of the first female candidate for Saardisca’s presidency only increases the tension, and Ollie becomes suspicious of the chefs’ hostility and untranslated conversations. Ollie’s concerns are downplayed by officials as secondary to the political risks at stake, and it probably doesn’t help that the head of the Secret Service is Ollie’s ex-boyfriend, or that her meddling was the main reason for their break-up.
One would think that someone other than Ollie should be responsible for protecting the security of the President, but considering the real Secret Service’s apparent open-door policy regarding felons entering the White House, this doesn’t seem unrealistic. So it’s up to Ollie to investigate the chefs who have invaded her kitchen, while she still has to prepare five-star meals for the First Family and guests.
Once again, Ollie faces sexism and condescending political hierarchies that force her to constantly prove herself in her kitchen. Newly married to Special Agent-in-Charge “Gav” Gavin, Ollie has ample personal support at home and a refreshingly loyal staff in the kitchen. These mysteries are so fascinating and unique because of the behind-the-scenes glimpses into the White House kitchen, from security background checks of food suppliers to the catering of every cultural, political, and health requirement of very powerful guests.
The writing of these bestselling White House Chef mysteries highlights a strong and confident heroine, sparkling dialogue, and elaborate plots with ever-increasing stakes. This eighth book in the series entertains with political intrigue, humor, and a character whose abilities as an executive chef is matched only by her skills at political intrigue.
Criminal Confections: A Chocolate Whisperer Mystery By Colette London
Review by Cynthia Chow
As a consultant for all things chocolate, Hayden Mundy Moore is accustomed to hike solo through Costa Rica, haggle in a Lebanese market, and confront top chefs, restaurateurs, and business executives. With the skill of a wine connoisseur, Hayden can detect the type of cocoa bean, its origin, and what flavors are blended in just by savoring a piece of chocolate on her tongue. The Indiana Jones of chocolate is a fish out of water though at grand schmoozing events like the business retreat being held at the Northern California’s Maison Lemaitre. Normally the “chocolate whisperer” works discreetly behind the scenes, but the arrogant CEO of Lemaitre Chocolates Corporation intends to display Hayden in all of her uncomfortable glory.
When Lemaitre chocolate recipe developer Adrienne Dowling collapses during the event, Hayden is devastated—was it an accident, the result of the caffeinated chocolates she was perfecting or something far more sinister? Never one to back down, Hayden investigates the eccentric, occasionally amoral, and often obsessed personalities enmeshed in the competitive world of chocolate.
Hayden had her best friend and security expert Danny Jamieson flown in for the retreat. Initially it was to protect her from awkwardness as a “plus-one”and not from a threat. Danny may still cling to the remnants of a shady past but his skills and determination are never in doubt. If only he wasn’t acting like such a bossy, albeit hot, irritating older brother.
Hayden’s first person narration and breezy style of snarky asides to the reader make her accessible and likable. The author succeeds in creating a world but takes her time to reveal the details and history to the reader.
Three ex-fiancés and an inherited wealth give Hayden additional opportunities along with feelings of undeserving guilt. She engages in double-entendre filled phone conversations with her unseen and mysterious financial advisor Travis Turner (his flying phobia ensures that they never meet).
With a constant supply of gourmet chocolates, Hayden’s openness and charm lets her make friends wherever she goes. This debut reveals scientific details about chocolate without detracting from the story. This is not a book to be read on an empty stomach as readers will be left hungering for chocolates that are as high in quality as the writing in this witty, well plotted mystery.
To enter to win a copy of all 3 Penguins & 1 Kensington, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “January Fun,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen February 7, 2015. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.
If you enjoy food mysteries, why not check out KRL’s food column How I Met My Dinner where you will find out about some great food & get recipes!
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