by Cynthia Chow
This week we have a fun group of food mysteries-A Game of Cones: An Ice Cream Parlor Mystery by Abby Collette, A Pairing to Die For: A Colorado Wine Mystery by Kate Lansing, Death Bee Comes Her: An Oregon Honeycomb Mystery by Nancy Coco, and Murder at the Beacon Bakeshop: A Beacon Bakeshop Mystery by Darci Hannah. 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 Game of Cones: An Ice Cream Parlor Mystery by Abby Collette
Review by Cynthia Chow
After having turned around and vastly improved the profits for her family’s Crewse Creamery ice cream parlor, Bronwyn “Win” Crewse is thrilled to be participating in a meeting of the Shop Owners of Chagrin Falls Association. Less welcome is the news of a businessman’s plans to create a vertical mall in the center of the Ohio village, especially when it means the purchase of a building one of Win’s friend’s had her heart set on for an expansion of the community garden. So when Zack Reynolds’ body is found not long after his announcement, it doesn’t take a huge leap for police and Win to suspect it of being a murder.
It’s not the best time for Win’s friend from New York to arrive in town in an attempt to convince Win to return to her Big City old job, especially when Rory Hunter herself appears to be acting a little “off.” As the secrets come out and she becomes a Person of Interest for the police, Win rallies her forces to investigate. Or more accurately, Win’s friends pressure her to investigate, with uber-mystery-reading-fan Maisie Solomon leading the charge. While Maisie can be relied on to have an ever-revolving suspect list and complete lack of restraint or boundaries, Win’s other BFF Riya Amacarelli provides medical know-how, martial arts skills, and unfortunate anger management issues. Their off-brand Charlie’s Angels is both hindered and enabled by Rory’s contributions, which does at least allow for an excuse to hire O, the undeniably handsome and helpful town attorney.
Despite both her father and brother being medical doctors, Win never feels less-than choosing to give up ad agency job in New York to take over running her family’s ice cream shop. In fact, they are very proud of Crewse Creamery, which was established by Win’s grandparents as Chagrin River’s first black-owned business. Win has turned the creamery around with her innovative flavors and on-trend creations, which is why the unexpected arrival of her Aunt Jack is so unnerving. Win can’t help but fear that her Poppop will give control of the creamery back to his daughter, despite Aunt Jack’s initial failed attempt to turn it into a novelty shop.
This is an extremely light-hearted novel that explodes with the exuberant exploits of Win and her friends. While their plans may be more impulsive than strategic, their determination to solve the mystery is never in doubt. This still leaves time for Win to experiment with her innovative flavor blends, with recipes at the end which include one for the eye-opening Rory’s Mint Mojito Coffee Ice Cream. The friendships, good-natured teasing, and banter between the women always feel natural and real, with their relationships as integral to the novel as the mystery. This second of the series featuring a refreshing and very likable heroine continues the fun that began with its debut, and readers will be left hungry for even more.
A Pairing to Die For: A Colorado Wine Mystery by Kate Lansing
Review by Cynthia Chow
Parker Valentine may have just survived the poisoning at her Vino Valentine winery that jeopardized both her business and her freedom, but she’s never faced a menace like this. For the first time Parker will be meeting the estranged family of her boyfriend Reid Wallace, the talented chef of Spoons restaurant. Reid himself hasn’t spoken to his parents or brothers in over a year, and their disapproval immediately overflows onto Parker. Condescending and extremely judgmental, their opinions are unlikely to improve when disastrous meals begin coming out of the kitchen. Far worse than over-seasoned or improperly sauced dishes, though, is the discovery of Spoons’ line cook Oscar Flores dead, stabbed in the back with one of Reid’s knives. A witness claiming to have seen the men fighting the night before leads to Reid’s quick arrest, with his family refusing to pay for his hefty bail.
Refusing to believe that Reid could have committed the murder, Parker pleads with the investigating Detective Eli Fuller to look for alternative suspects. Their awkward “friend zone” status – implemented by Parker, not Eli – means that she doubts that the officials anything that would risk an easy conviction. As a result, Parker not only investigates the tumultuous world of restaurants, she finds herself spending more time than she wants to with Reid’s unwelcoming family. It doesn’t take long for Parker to discover that jealousy and rivalries abound within the high-pressure cooking arena.
This second in the series continues to expand upon the fascinating nuances and exacting details involved in boutique winemaking. Old ways blend together with new science technologies, fortunate for Parker as she vents out her frustration and anger through old school stomping on grapes. Parker sees the world through a veil of winemaking, observing how grapes that endure struggle, high altitudes, and extreme weather produce much more flavorful and robust wine. It’s impossible for her to not compare that with Reid and his favored brothers, the latter whose much easier childhoods led to their becoming self-involved, self-centered adults. It is Parker’s attention to details and meticulousness — her custom blends are precisely recorded, accurately reproduced chemical experiments — that allows to put together clues before the police. Colorado’s charm and the exploration of Parker’s winery ensure for an original and compelling setting, especially as readers are introduced to more of Parker’s friends and family members. Cozy fans will be delighted by Parker’s cat Zinfandel, as well as recipes and wine pairings included at the end. While many may know how to balance wine acidity and bitterness with certain foods, would they also know that a monscato d’Asti is the perfect pairing for a Cinnamon Apple Tart? Readers entranced by this compelling world will have much to look forward to as Parker continues her success to build up her winery while protecting those she loves.
Death Bee Comes Her: An Oregon Honeycomb Mystery by Nancy Coco
Review by Cynthia Chow
After the death of her parents, Wren Johnson moved to the tourist beach community of Oceanview, Oregon, in order to live closer to her beloved Aunt Eloise. The hipster town was also the perfect place for Wren to follow her dreams of opening an environmentally-friendly honey store Let It Bee, where she could advocate for the preservation of endangered honeybees. Flavored honeys, lotions, candles, and even taffy made from her own honeybee hives are but a small sample of what she sells as the town gears up for the annual Halloweentown event. It’s her honey lip balm, though, that lands her in a sticky mess when Wren and her Havana Brown cat Everett discover the body of Agnes Snow, dead and clutching the label of one of Let It Bee’s lip balms.
Local police officer Jim Hampton quickly lets Wren know that the lip balm was poisoned, then demands her special ingredient list and telling her not to leave town. Wren had no intention of this, especially since Agnes was her aunt’s biggest rival in competitions since grammar school, making her the next probable suspect. As Aunt Eloise continues to ramp up her efforts to compete in the next baking contest, Wren focuses on determining who – other than either herself or her aunt – wanted Agnes dead. While blue-eyed Jim seems intent on arresting her or her aunt, hipster-bearded attorney Matt Hanson will hopefully keep her out of jail and out of trouble. It is her rather lurid status as a murder suspect that puts an early kibosh on a potential romance, but with all that’s going on in Wren’s life that’s probably for the best. As Wren investigates possible blackmail and infidelities, attacks on herself and Everett threaten to put a stinger in her hopes to prove her innocence.
This first of a new series by the prolific author of cozies who also writes under the names Nancy J. Parra and Nell Hampton, Nancy Coco quickly sets up the start of very warm-hearted, environmental-and-animal-friendly future adventures. Recipes are included not just for Honey Yogurt Mousse and Honey Facials, but for lickable Winter Pet Paw Wax that protects sensitive paws from ice and antifreeze. Possible romances and rivalries are introduced that portend further complications in Wren’s life, although the very talkative Everett will undoubtedly provide calming support on their daily walks. The impetuous, honeybee-loving, young business woman is a worthy representative of her beloved healing, helpful, and always busy honeybees.
Murder at the Beacon Bakeshop: A Beacon Bakeshop Mystery by Darci Hannah
Review by Cynthia Chow
Seeing her celebrity chef fiancé covered with both icing sugar and his pastry chef forced investment banker Lindsey Bakewell to re-evaluate the life she’s built up on Wall Street. After a lot of anger baking – and keying her ex-fiancé’s Jaguar – Lindsey decided to upend her world by moving to the place where she and her bakery-owning grandparents had their fondest vacations. This meant buying a rundown lighthouse in Beacon Harbor, Michigan, where Lindsey renovated it into a home above her new bakery café. The Memorial Day grand opening of the Beacon Bakeshop & Café is shadowed first by a preservation society protest, then by the unexpected and unappreciated arrival of Lindsey’s Ex and the tarty chef girlfriend. Jeffrey Plank blames Lindsey for the social media backlash that resulted in tanking cookbook sales and PETA-led protests, so she worries that they are on a mission of revenge. When it is instead the girlfriend Mia Long who collapses from a poisoned donut, Lindsey finds herself targeted by police as the logical suspect for the crime.
While Jeffrey’s temper and Mia’s mean-girl attitude lead to a growing list of suspects, the touristy beach town harbors its own secrets and quirky characters. Lindsey scoffs at the belief that the ghost Captain Willy Riggs has haunted the lighthouse for decade, right up until it seems that the specter has learned some high-tech, instant messaging communication skills. With his ethereal counsel, along with the more corporeal support of the Paul Bunyan-esque neighbor Rory Campbell, Lindsey attempts to clear her name while keeping her kitchen open. Her ever-growing Newfoundland pup Wellington may have inadvertently introduced them by some larcenous fishery, but it’s a new friendship with a promising future.
This first in a new series by the author of historical and cozy mysteries promises fun conflicts between Lindsey’s new and old lives. Her former supermodel mother has definite opinions on her daughter’s life transition, despite a rather lackadaisical attitude on maternal upbringing. Lindsey’s bestie Kennedy Kapoor is an Influencer who continues to well-intentionally influence Lindsey’s life in Michigan, with mixed results. Motivated by the need to protect her new life and bakery/café investment, Lindsey hurls herself in the investigation despite warnings from the police and many of her suspects. This light-hearted adventure is filled with humorous banter, canine exploits, and recipes of Lindsey’s therapeutic baking experiments. Readers will delight in this promising new series that delivers mouth-watering moments and a rollicking, fun-filled mystery.
To enter to win a copy of all 4 books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “march food” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen March 13, 2021. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. If you are entering via email please include you mailing address in case you win, it will be deleted after the contest. You can read our privacy statement here if you like. BE AWARE THAT IT MAY TAKE MUCH LONGER THAN USUAL FOR WINNERS TO GET THEIR BOOKS DUE TO THE CURRENT CRISIS.
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