by Cynthia Chow
& Sandra Murphy
This week we have a couple more fun food mysteries from Penguin authors-Out of the Dying Pan by Linda Reilly, and Kernel of Truth: A Popcorn Shop Mystery By Kristi Abbott. Details at the end of this post on how to win a copy of both, and a link to purchase them.
Out of the Dying Pan by Linda Reilly
Review by Sandra Murphy
Talia Marby loves fried foods. She recently took over the old Lambert’s fish and chips place in town and is experimenting with other deep fried items like meatballs and marble pound cake. Of course, the batter has to be basic to start but then adaptable for sweet or savory end results. She’s renaming the shop, Fry Me a Sliver.
Her employee, Lucas, is a typical teen, growing faster than he can keep up with and clumsy because of it. He’s also determined to learn to skateboard on cobblestones and wears the scars to prove it. Still, he managed to set up a Facebook page for the restaurant and that’s more than Talia’s been able to do.
Talia’s other employee, Martha, is a puzzle. She never talks about her past, is grumpy a lot of the time, swears she doesn’t like kids, and complains pretty much non-stop. As long as she stays in the kitchen, things work a little better.
When Talia steals a minute to welcome a new shopkeeper to the neighborhood, she’s surprised at the rude reception she gets from Ria, the owner. Kelsey, the employee, was nice, so what’s up with Ria?
The first Sunday in December is the Santa fund-raiser where businesses get to show their wares and help families in need for the holidays. Martha and Talia are frying up cake with raspberry sauce. Ria is appalled to find out her booth, with her wonderful vintage clothes, is right next to a “fry cook.” Talia’s none too pleased either, especially when she recognizes a scarf Ria has for sale. It’s the first scarf Talia knit, a gift for her grandmother who recently passed away. Ria refuses to sell it to her or say where she got it and wears it for the event, just for spite.
When Talia has to return to the gymnasium for a forgotten container of sweet batter, she spots part of the scarf sticking out from under a wall divider. Unfortunately, it’s still on Ria, just exceptionally tight—as in strangled.
There are a number of suspects, Talia included, since she found the body, was seen arguing with Ria over the scarf, and Ria’s ever-so-public display of asking for another booth. Andy, the Santa of the day, was interested in Ria (read stalking). Ria had an older, married, boyfriend (read rich) with a wife who didn’t want the divorce (read made a scene at Ria’s funeral). Kelsey wasn’t fond of Ria either after Ria pulled some spiteful antics.
The question isn’t who wanted to kill Ria, but who wanted to enough to actually do it?
This is the second book in the Deep Fried Mystery series. Look for recipes for the savory batter and deep fried meatballs, sweet batter and marble cake at the back of the book.
Talia and her crew are a work in progress as Martha gradually lets them get closer and stops being so grumpy. Lucas is a treat. Talia is getting to the point of realizing she can’t work non-stop, so it’s interesting to see her at home too. This is an enjoyable mystery with a reveal that will surprise. I look forward to the next installment—and more recipes.
Kernel of Truth: A Popcorn Shop Mystery By Kristi Abbott
Review by Cynthia Chow
Rebecca Anderson wasn’t proud that she was tempted to ignore the screams she heard while in her POPS gourmet popcorn store, but it was at a critical point in her the caramel sauce. When she realizes that the screaming is from Coco’s Cocoas chocolate shop, Rebecca is shattered. It was Coco Bittles who mentored Rebecca after the death of her parents, and it was Coco who lured Rebecca back to Grand Lake, Ohio after the failure of her marriage. The news that Coco was murdered during an apparent robbery is devastating, and that was before the realization that Coco’s niece Jessica plans to sell both the store and Coco’s secret chocolate recipe.
Rebecca became known as a rebellious “wild child” when orphaned as a teenager, and it’s a reputation that continues to follow her even after her success in California. In fact, her “uppity” Culinary Institute of America education and remodeling of her store only furthers the distance between her and the locals who see her as a little too big for her britches. Memories are long and gossip flourishes in Grand Lake, so Rebecca’s suspicion over Coco’s death are looked upon as just another incident of acting out. While everyone else sympathizes with petite, adorable Jessica’s lamentations, Rebecca relentlessly ensures that Coco’s legacy lives on and that the truth about her fate is revealed.
The first person narration perfectly captures Rebecca’s contradictions and complexities. While she pretends that being labeled reckless and irresponsible doesn’t bother her, Rebecca can’t help but be wounded by their narrow-minded opinions. She is also infuriated that she is the only one who can see through Jessica’s manipulations; being nearly a foot taller than her diminutive rival certainly doesn’t help to sway sympathy Rebecca’s way. What is refreshing is that Rebecca’s marriage to a celebrity chef ended not because he betrayed her with a mistress, but because he neglected her to pursue his career. He regrets that now, and it’s not easy to ignore someone who has his own television show, salad dressing line, and life-sized cardboard cutout promoting pasta sauces in the grocery store. Rebecca’s strength as a character carries the novel in this debut series, and her vulnerability in the community she loves despite its prejudice only enhances her likability. The combination of Rebecca’s acerbic wit, loyal friends, standard poodle with larcenous habits, and astounding popcorn recipes all delightfully blend together in this fast-moving and fun-filled mystery read.
To enter to win a copy of both 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 19, 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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