by Cynthia Chow
Here are a few more fun mysteries from Penguin-Fry Another Day: A Biscuit Bowl Food Truck Mystery by J.J. Cook, At the Drop of a Hat: A Hat Shop Mystery by Jenn McKinlay, and Played by the Book: A Novel Idea Mystery by Lucy Arlington. Details on how to enter to win a copy of all 3 books at the end of this post, along with a link to purchase them.
Fry Another Day: A Biscuit Bowl Food Truck Mystery By J.J. Cook
Review by Cynthia Chow
In order to earn enough to bring her dream restaurant up to code, Zoe Chase serves delectable sweet- and savory-filled fried biscuit bowls from her Biscuit Bowl food truck. Zoe has the opportunity to jump-start her dream when she enters the Sweet Magnolia Food Truck Race, a televised food-truck competition that could award her fifty thousand dollars. Zoe enlists the help of a team that includes her attorney Miguel Alexander—although what she really wants is to prod their relationship along and determine whether it could grow to something more.
The race is off to a rocky start when an unsecured refrigerator squashes one of the competitors. The race continues, with participants forced to engage in increasingly absurd tasks, but efforts are hampered by vandalism and attacks that threaten to shut down the show.
With the popularity of food-truck competition television shows it was inevitable that this series would venture into the arena, and the results are thoroughly enjoyable. The names of the food trucks alone make it a fun ride: there’s Our Daily Bread bakery truck (run by ministers, of course), the Stick It Here pot-stickers truck, Chooey’s Sooey Asian food, and the rather aggressively monikered Shut Up and Eat sandwich truck.
Romance is alive and well within the Biscuit Bowl. Although Zoe had worried that Miguel’s tragic past would be the biggest stumbling-block of their relationship, what proves to be far more problematic is the sudden appearance of another woman and the police’s suspicion that Miguel may be connected to the crimes plaguing the competition.
What readers are guaranteed is a very entertaining ride as they accompany Zoe on her race to produce tasty food, solve a murder or two, and salvage her personal life, all while making great reality television moments for the ever-present cameras. This second in the series serves up a delicious amount of humor, a side helping of eccentric characters, and an extremely likable heroine.
At the Drop of a Hat: A Hat Shop Mystery By Jenn McKinlay
Review by Cynthia Chow
Scarlett Parker and her cousin Vivian Tremont are ecstatic when Ariana Jackson walks into their London hat shop, requesting a restoration of her late mother’s bridal hat in time for her own wedding. Scarlett and Vivian’s grandmother was the original designer of the hat, and considering that her ghost still inhabits the millinery, there are even more reasons for their delight.
Scarlett however soon discovers Ariana standing over the body of her defenestrated boss, Anthony Russo. The attorney had a reputation for being an amoral womanizer, but Ariana’s presence and her own declaration make her the prime suspect in the death.
Scarlett is unable to help herself from championing the vulnerable Ariana, but this compulsion is also largely motivated by her growing attraction for attorney Harrison Wentworth.
This is one of the most spirited and fun stories among McKinlay’s many cozy mysteries. The tone is light-hearted and humorous, and Scarlett has supportive friends always ready to back her up with good wine and even better food.
The friends’ obsession with the Great British Bake Off proves timely just as the season begins in the United States, and Anglophiles will revel in the cozy London atmosphere. The brief glimpse into a life Viv may have been hiding hints at even more romantic complications to come, and readers will continue to have much to look forward to in this always-entertaining series.
Played by the Book: A Novel Idea Mystery By Lucy Arlington
Review by Cynthia Chow
Lila Wilkins loves her dream job at the Novel Idea Literary Agency in Inspiration Valley, North Carolina. Not only is she paid to read the mysteries and thrillers she loves, she also has the delight of helping guide aspiring writers to publication. The only downside is Mrs. Bentley Burlington-Duke, Novel Idea’s owner, whose business-minded focus never considers that her employees might have lives outside of the agency.
Bentley’s latest obsession is the promotion of a new gardening book by a former local resident, the now-famous Damian York. She assigns Lila the task of making her own garden worthy of Inspiration Valley’s Annual Garden Walk, in addition to being in charge of planning the author’s book signing and the catered reception for over a hundred people. In two weeks.
Lila hits a snafu at the starting gate when she uncovers a skull in the garden of her newly purchased cottage, making it a crime scene and eliminating it from the Garden Walk.
Lila is facing a different disappointment when she fails to receive an expected non-literary proposal from her boyfriend, Detective Sean Griffiths. In fact, even though she overheard Sean asking her nineteen year-old son for permission to marry her, Sean has been cancelling more dates than making them.
Lila’s most rewarding achievements are when she is finally able to make a struggling writer’s dreams come true, and equally satisfying are the steps that include everything from picking the perfect title to refining the “hook” that will appeal to a publisher. Lila’s newest prospective author crafts a charming English pub mystery that sounds so entrancing that snippets of the novel would have been entirely welcome.
Literary-themed Inspiration Valley is filled with engaging personalities flourishing in the publishing world, and Played By The Book is an excellent addition to a great series.
To enter to win a copy of all 3 Penguins, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “February Fun,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen February 21, 2015. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
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