Food Mysteries For Valentine’s Day

Feb 11, 2023 | 2023 Articles, Cynthia Chow, Kathleen Costa, Mysteryrat's Maze, Terrance V. Mc Arthur

by Cynthia Chow, Sandra Murphy & Terrance McArthur

This week we have reviews and giveaways of 4 food mysteries for your Valentine’s Day feast-A Good Day to Pie: A Pies Before Guys Mystery by Misha Popp, A Half-Baked Murder: A Cannabis Café Mystery by Emily George, Cheddar Late than Dead: A Grilled Cheese Mystery by Linda Reilly, & The Girl With the Dragonfruit Tattoo: Trouble in Paradise! by Carrie Doyle. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 4 books and links to purchase them at the end of each review–you may not be able to see the Amazon links if you have ad blocker on.

A Good Day to Pie: A Pies Before Guys Mystery by Misha Popp
Review by Cynthia Chow

After winning a statewide pie contest, mobile bakery owner Daisy Ellery has been invited to FoodTV’s newest baking competition show, Bake My Day. Leaving behind her pooch Zoe and the Frank’s Roadside Diner kitchen she borrows, Daisy heads off to Turnbridge, Massachusetts, to stay in the Lonborough Estate where she and eleven other bakers will be competing for a huge cash prize and a ton of publicity. Along the way, Daisy drops off a few pies for her Pies Before Guys clients, those women who need to have an abusive male permanently removed from their lives. Able to whisk magical doses into her pies, Daisy has been serving out (undetectable) poisonous justice to those who have escaped the legal system and deserve to suffer the most severe of punishments. What Daisy didn’t expect was that one of those on her naughty list would be Bryan Miller, the lecherous and obnoxious judge who will be tasting all of her confections on the competition show.

As Daisy gets to know her fellow contestants, she begins to bond with them even as they face off in cookie, cake, and meringue challenges. That makes it all the more upsetting when one of the contestants suffers from a fatal fall in the kitchen, and then later Bryan Miller meets his fate without Daisy’s intervention. The motto, “The show must go on,” is in full force as the contest continues, with Daisy and the other bakers attempting to focus on their showpieces while ignoring the multiple elephants in the room. It looks as though it will be up to Daisy and her magical inclusions of honesty and confessions to force out the truth, even if it results in a little too much honesty when her magic gets a bit unfocused. Illicit affairs, hidden passages, and epic bake fails have Daisy feeling the pressure to deliver justice along with tasty and mouth-watering delicious bakes.

Due to the immense amount of patisserie descriptions, customizable recipes, and detailed baking craft explanations, readers’ mileage may vary on how much they appreciate this baking competition mystery. As someone who watched every Mary Berry episode Great British Bake Off (and before it was named in America The Great British Baking Show due to legal reasons) and every single episode of Top Chef, I LOVED this mystery. The author excellently depicts every intrusive judge moment, every vilification of competitors, and every tragic baking disaster moment that are so prevalent in these reality baking competition shows. Even better are the complicated relationships between contestants, who compete against one another but also unite together as they are forced into stressful and often absurd situations. Readers will be cheering for Daisy to win Bake My Day as much as they will for her to solve the mystery, especially since they have become attached to the sympathetic contestants and their reasons for entering the competition. This is a unique twist on the cozy mystery genre, as it highlights the craft of baking while also having a heroine dealing out a very lethal, if magical, form of justice. Every page was a delight in this foodie mystery that celebrates the bonds of new friendships while never shying away from how the legal system can ignore those who need it the most.

A Half-Baked Murder: A Cannabis Café Mystery by Emily George
Review by Cynthia Chow

For a pastry chef, timing is everything. It’s two coincidental acts that will upend pastry chef Chloe Barnes’s life and cause her to entirely rethink her future. The devastating news that her chef boyfriend had just gotten one of their staff pregnant led to Chloe understandably having an off night in the kitchen, but it also happened on the very same night the restaurant is visited by a famous food critic. When the brutal review is published just as Chloe receives the news that her beloved grandmother is battling cancer, it makes it an easy decision for Chloe to return home to Azalea Bay where she can help her family. While Chloe may have intended to wallow in pity while caring for Grandma Rose, Aunt Dawn has a much different plan in store for them. Now that marijuana is legal in California and it proved to be so helpful to Grandma Rose during chemo treatments, Dawn wants to put Chloe’s trained pastry skills to use by creating a new Cannabis Café. Chloe barely has time to consider this pivot to a new career path before she’s confronted with a very unpleasant blast from her past. Brendan Chalmers hasn’t become any more appealing since the times he stalked her from elementary through high school, and he definitely still hasn’t learned to hear the word “no.” Just as his advances become a case of assault, Chloe is rescued by her Aunt Dawn, a heroic act that has its downsides when Brendon is later found murdered and she becomes a possible suspect.

The murder weapon having Aunt Dawn’s initials on it definitely doesn’t look good, but she’s not about to allow a possible arrest to slow down their goal of opening a cannabis café. After getting a location, they are soon on their way to getting bank loans and permits, steps would be halted by the murder investigation. When not planning a Dosed and Delighted Dinner party to introduce her neighbors to her planned menus, Chloe begins looking into the life of Brendon and who may have wanted him dead. A bullied sister, competitive gym rats, and a completely unlikable personality means that there are many options for Chloe to investigate, so it’s fortunate that she has her long-time Dungeons and Dragons-playing bestie Sabrina at her side. Just as helpful is Chloe’s new neighbor Jake, himself a former finance officer who downsized his life into becoming a mechanic. Now, in order to ensure that her life isn’t once again upended, Chloe will have to figure out a way to protect her family without becoming the target of a murderer.

Living in a state where only medical marijuana is legal and availability for that still very limited, the processes Chloe and her aunt go through to license their café are fascinating. The descriptions on how to make edibles even more compelling, as readers are shown that it is the cannabis-infused butter, and not the buds themselves, that are baked into the tasty treats. Recipes are included in the end for adventurous readers; as long as it legal in their states, of course.

The final chapter ensures that the next installment will feature even more of the Cannabis Café’s delights, along with Chloe and her new friends. Chloe is a refreshing amateur detective as she is drawn very reluctantly into the investigation, and even in the midst of it is all too aware of her lack of experience and interrogation skills. Losing her fiancé and her dream job cost her the ability to trust, and it will take Grandma Rose, Aunt Dawn, and her newly forged family in Azalea Bay to bring it back. Chloe and her maternal family members are genuinely likable, with Dawn participating in paired dog dancing competitions while her Grandma dates a famous mystery writer. Watching the introverted Chloe step into the spotlight and take chances on a risky future is a rewarding delight, with the cannabis baking adding a unique aspect to the traditional cozy mystery genre.

Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).

Cheddar Late than Dead: A Grilled Cheese Mystery by Linda Reilly
Review by Sandra Murphy

When Dawn and Klarissa dropped by Carly’s Grilled Cheese Eatery, Carly had no idea how much trouble they’d brought with them. Klarissa is getting married and everything has to be perfect. Of course, the burden of perfect is on Dawn, and she’s not getting a bit of help from Klarissa. When Klarissa doesn’t make the deposit on the venue for the shower, it’s up to Dawn to take the blame and fix the problem.

Dawn’s mother is persuaded to hold the shower at her mansion and Carly’s roped into providing the food: grilled cheese donuts. The food is a big hit but a damper is thrown onto the party when Tony, the angry groom-to-be shows up—and dies. Was it the fall down the stairs or the poison in his drink that did him in?

Carley’s been involved with murders before, not as the killer of course, but she does manage to find clues and figure out who the culprit is. Klarissa and Dawn beg for her help. Thanks to a new server at the restaurant and a more flexible schedule, Carley’s able to lend a hand.

The problem is there are too many suspects. Klarissa and Tony didn’t have a perfect relationship, Dawn was upset the couple would move out of state after the wedding, Tony’s stepmother was left out of the wedding plans, and to top it off, the town manager, Gretel, is missing but no one knows if that’s related or not. While Carly’s able to find some clues, they don’t add up to a killer.

This is book three in the series. Carly and her boyfriend Ari are making progress in their relationship. Grant has designs on becoming a chef so he always has suggestions for new versions of grilled cheese sandwiches, although grilled cheese donuts were not his idea. The recipe for grilled cheese donuts plain, with bacon, or with tomato slices is included. For a side, make your own tomato soup from Grant’s recipe.

Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the Arch in St. Louis Missouri. She’s editor for Peace, Love, and Crime: Crime Stories Inspired by the Songs of the ’60s, with twenty-two cozy stories. She also edited A Murder of Crows, twenty-one stories featuring animals and crime (no animals were harmed). She also writes for magazines, newsletters, and the occasional guest blog. Both anthologies are available at the usual outlets, print or ebook.

The Girl With the Dragonfruit Tattoo: Trouble in Paradise! by Carrie Doyle
Review by Terrance McArthur

Celebrities. Demi celebrities. Wannabe celebrities. A luxurious yacht. Cruising the Caribbean. Murder.

This is not “The Love Boat.”

It’s Carrie Doyle’s third Trouble in Paradise Mystery, The Girl with the Dragonfruit Tattoo, (Each book includes the name of a tropical fruit in the title.), follows the exploits of Plum Lockhart, former New York travel magazine editor and current villa rental broker on the Caribbean island paradise of Paraiso. Invited to a rap mogul’s fancy yacht, she meets a crew member who washes up on shore a few days later. Is it an accident? Suicide? The chief of police doesn’t think so. He sends Plum back to the boat to investigate.

On the cruise across the Caribbean (at sea for more than a three-hour tour), Plum deals with an international braggart, a rock diva, a sleazy movie producer and his wife, a ladder-climbing starlet, a captain with a shady past, a fabled island, and a kitchen crew that cook up more than a five-star buffet. On land, she juggles contacts with two wealthy women (the ex-wife and the widow of a late landowner; both are masters of one-upmanship), snarls at a former co-worker at another villa brokering company, tries to deal with a celebrity-crazed former employee who manages to worm his way into each book in the series, and longs for the resort’s chief of security (who is dealing with his own problems).

Secrets, secrets, and more secrets abound onboard, and Plum has to sort out which secrets add up to murder. Finally, she rounds up all the unusual suspects in the sitting room for a twisty, quirky version of that Golden Age of Mystery classic—revealing all the motives, building up to the big reveal of the killer, with a few major twists along the way.

Doyle seductively leads the reader from conundrum to conundrum with laughs along the way, with antics and situations that would fit anywhere from I Love Lucy to the caverns of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. It’s a rollicking mystery with a clever dash of romance. I recommend the whole series.

To enter to win a copy of all 4 food mysteries, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “valentine’s day,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen February 18, 2023. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. If entering via email please include your mailing address in case you win, it will be deleted after the contest. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also listen to our new mystery podcast where mystery short stories and first chapters are read by actors! They are also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Spotify. A new episode went up this week.

Terrance V. Mc Arthur worked for the Fresno County Public Library for three decades. He is retired, but not retiring. A storyteller, puppeteer, writer, actor, magician, basketmaker, and all-around interesting person, his goal is to make life more unusual for everyone he meets.

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


  1. It is always a great time to read a food mystery! I would love to read these four books.

  2. Sounds like four great foodie Mysteries, would enjoy reading all of them.

    • This bundle of mysteries is a dream. I love Linda Reilly’s books, and the others sound fresh & purfect! Thanks for the chance to win all 4!

  3. These are all new series to me.
    The cold weather is keeping me inside.
    Need these so I have something to read.
    thanks. txmlhl(at)yahoo(dot)com

  4. These sound fun. I’ve always enjoyed Linda Reilly’s books, the others are all new to me.

  5. What a great bunch of books! Count me in!

  6. We have a winner!


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