by Sandra Murphy
& Cynthia Chow
This week we have some more fun food mysteries from Penguin authors-It’s a Wonderful Knife: A Comfort Food Mystery by Christine Wenger, Scene of the Brine by Mary Ellen Hughes, and Town in a Cinnamon Toast by B. B. Haywood. Details at the end of this post on how to win a copy of all three books, and a link to purchase them.
It’s a Wonderful Knife: A Comfort Food Mystery by Christine Wenger
Review by Cynthia Chow
Christmas is Silver Bullet Diner owner Trixie Matkowski’s favorite time of the year, but for her it doesn’t officially begin until the Thanksgiving dishes are put away and her guests sleep off their food comas. That means that she has yet to put up a string of decorations before taking a tumble that results with her leg in a cast, four broken ribs, and a cap-less tooth. That’s nothing, though, compared to the stress headache when she considers how now to handle the daily cooking duties at the diner, not to mention the catering jobs for holiday parties, wedding receptions, bridal showers, and meals for the Sandy Harbor Community Church pageant rehearsals and cast sit-down dinner.
The rehearsals themselves are off to a rocky start when manager Liz Fellows is murdered, and the suspects number higher than the entire cast list. The pastor’s secretary had upended traditions by demanding auditions, and no one is unhappier than the previous play manager. She’s not made any cheerier when Trixie somehow finds herself volunteering for the job, and it’s only through the help of her employees, friends, and numerous family members that she will have any hope of meeting her holiday responsibilities. Perhaps the most shocking assistance comes with the arrival of the mythical “Bob,” the diner cook who disappeared into casinos around the country after her uncle’s death.
Although Police Deputy Ty Brisco is more than capable of conducting his own official inquiry, Trixie and her best friend Antoinette Chloe Brown nevertheless throw themselves into an investigation on the basis that they have no need to follow rules. They shouldn’t be too surprised when this results in their spending the night in jail due to a little breaking-and-entering, as they have no problem stealing evidence, interrogating suspects, and intruding on crime scenes.
It takes an entire community to fulfill the catering and cooking responsibilities Trixie assigns herself, and thankfully she has one at the ready. Not only do her staff and friends step in to lend a hand, but her Aunt Stella returns along with eight Busy Babes of Boca. The light-hearted and very humorous tone of this novel match the outrageous antics of the characters, and readers should be prepared for amateur detectives who literally investigate “just because.” In actuality, Trixie has come to love both the town and her diner, and this affection has her delving into a murder precisely because she feels so invested in Sandy Harbor and its residents. If she perhaps want to show up Ty just a little, so be it. Genial characters, comical dialogue, and delicious descriptions of indulgent down-home cooking are the ingredients of this enjoyable “comfort” read.
Scene of the Brine by Mary Ellen Hughes
Review by Sandra Murphy
Piper Lamb, owner of Piper’s Picklings in Cloverdale, New York, is having a great season selling her wares. That includes all kinds of pickled fruits and veggies as well as the equipment and seasonings to do it yourself. One of the most popular items is brandied cherries. Her friend Sugar Heywood, local caterer, plans to use them at a dinner party.
Sugar’s dating realtor Jeremy Porter. He’s good looking, has money, and is good to his mother, Lydia, who just moved in with him. Sugar’s happier than Piper’s seen in a long time. Too bad Lydia thinks Jeremy can do better. When Jeremy’s accountant, Dirk, reveals that although Sugar has a son, Zach, she’s never been married, That Is Just Not Done according to Lydia. Jeremy caves and breaks up with Sugar. Zach’s furious, Sugar’s heartbroken, and everyone is upset at Lydia’s highhanded actions.
When Dirk is murdered, the police find he was poisoned. A likely suspect is Zach since he’s into botany and the poison was a locally grown plant. Zach, as a twenty-year old, doesn’t have a lot of common sense and disappears, which only serves to make him look guilty.
Piper’s determined to help where she can. Her ex, Scott, acts as Zach’s lawyer. Ralph, the woodworker who made a fabulous new door for Piper’s shop, seems to like Sugar and lends a hand. For her part, Sugar thinks Ralph is a real sweetheart but lacks ambition.
Dirk pulled the same kind of stunt on a lot of people—drop a bombshell, ruin a life. He was Jeremy’s hatchet man, doing all the dirty work so Jeremy could still be popular. The problem was, Dirk liked it. Suspects for Dirk’s murder include Zach, another realtor, Stan, whose business Dirk was ruining with rumors and lies, a landscaper who knew Dirk years ago, and pretty much anyone who ever met him.
This is the third book in the Pickled and Preserved Mystery series. Piper is someone you’d like for a friend. She’d sell you pickled everything and let you take the credit or show you how to do it too. The shop would be a great place to hang out, and be around good food and good friends. Her aunt and uncle would welcome you to the dinner table like family. Solving the mystery of who killed Dirk, well, that would make a great story to tell when you got back home again. The potential of romance with Scott again and the actual romance with Christmas tree farmer, Will, adds spice to the story. What people need to remember is this: if you’re going to do something bad, really bad, keep in mind, Piper protects her friends, so what goes around, comes around, like a Mack truck you never heard coming.
Piper shares the recipe for the brandied cherries and for spicy pickled carrots at the back of the book. What will she cook up next? Only time will tell.
Town in a Cinnamon Toast by B. B. Haywood
Review by Sandra Murphy
It’s time for Maggie and Georg’s wedding. It will be held at Blueberry Acres, where Candy and her dad, Doc, with help from friends, are decorating the barn for the ceremony. Tiny white lights, a chandelier, gauzy drapes, and the wedding colors of cinnamon and blueberry transform the place.
At the inn, the wedding party has gathered to celebrate and go over final details. Two of the party are missing—the best man, Julius, an older gentleman, and Candy, who went to look for him. It’s not like Julius to miss an appointment, but he’s a scholarly researcher and might have gotten lost in a book.
When Candy can’t find him at home, she heads for the lighthouse museum, where Julius does a lot of his work. She’s stunned to find his body with books all around and a champagne bottle on the floor. It’s one of the twelve bottles special ordered for the wedding. So, how did it get there? And more importantly, who would want to hurt Julius?
It seems the bottle was also the murder weapon so an added question is, was it premeditated? Questions abound and suspects are few. The museum’s director points the finger at Candy, who he says he discovered her standing over the body. Not exactly the case and because he removed evidence from the scene, she could easily point to him as the culprit.
Since Julius researched the history of the town and its prominent families, it’s possible he discovered something no one wanted known. Long ago, land deeds were lost—if found, they could upset ownership of the entire town. Could that be what Julius was working on?
Candy noticed sand on his shoes. In Maine, shorelines are more apt to be rocks than sand, but there is one stretch that might qualify. He also had binoculars in his car, so he was studying something. From the beach, only one thing stands out—the old Whitby house, up for sale for a long time, now just sold to a mysterious buyer.
Between the wedding, the murder, taking care of the farm, and writing the occasional article for the paper, Candy’s got her hands full. Add in trying to do it all before Saturday’s wedding and things can really get complicated.
This is book seven in the Candy Holliday Mystery series. At the back of the book, find recipes for Maggie and Georg’s wedding cake, cinnamon raspberry flop, cinnamon toast, and the groom’s cake complete with candied flowers. There’s also a guide to springtime planting, a handy list of characters, and a preview of the next book, Town in a Blueberry Jam.
To enter to win a copy of all 3 books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “February Food 2016,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen February 27, 2016. 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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