by Sandra Murphy
& Cynthia Chow
This week we have reviews of 3 fun food mysteries-Death by Chocolate Frosted Donut: Death by Chocolate Mystery by Sarah Graves, Egg Drop Dead: A Noodle Shop Mystery by Vivien Chien, and Pies Before Guys: A Pie Town Mystery by Kirsten Weiss. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 3 books, along with links you can use to purchase them. If you have ad blocker on you won’t see the Amazon links at the end of each review.
Death by Chocolate Frosted Donut: Death by Chocolate Mystery by Sarah Graves
Review by Sandra Murphy
Jacobia (Jake) and her best friend, Ellie, own a waterfront bakery, the Chocolate Moose, in Eastport, Maine. Business was shaky at first but has increased steadily. Now, in the midst of the annual Pirate Festival, tourists and townspeople alike are stopping by for snacks. One drawback of feeding grade-school age pirates is the mess they leave behind. The counters are full of fingerprints, the floors sticky enough to grab your shoes, and then there’s the broken jar of raspberry preserves.
In the middle of all the mess, Henry Hadlyme, foodie show host, drops by, unannounced, to do a podcast. Since he’s made ugly remarks about other shop owners, he’s also unwanted. Jake tells him in no uncertain terms to get out and stay out. Before she and Ellie can get back to cleanup duty, Ellie receives a phone call from Timmy Franco. He’s out on the water, and his boat seems to be sinking.
After rescuing Timmy, Jake bakes for the next day but finally, can no longer put off cleaning the shop. The supplies are in the basement, a spooky place. Arms full of mops, brooms, and sprays, she loses her balance and falls. When the mop handle hits the closet door, it pops open and a dead body pops out. It’s Hadlyme, with a cutlass in his chest and a toy parrot attached to his shoulder. Of course, since Jake had words with him and he’s in her bakery, she’s a natural suspect. If she were only dealing with Bob Arnold, police chief, she wouldn’t be worried. However, murders are handled by the state police. There is no bail for murder cases. It’s in her best interests to avoid being arrested.
And that kicks off Jake and Ellie’s need to investigate. Access to the cutlass would be limited, the parrot seems to belong to Jake’s grandson. The more clues they find, the guiltier she looks.
This is book three of the series. When Jake and Ellie first appeared, it was in the A Home Repair is Homicide mysteries (sixteen books). A year ago, they opened the chocolate bakery, Ellie being the baker and Jake a willing if doubtful trainee. Jake’s son is grown, married, and a father. Jake’s own father has remarried. Everyone lives with Jake and Wade in more harmony than you’d expect.
Although Jake and Ellie are willing to take what most would consider extreme risks, they manage to get themselves out of any dangerous situations, and in this book, more often than usual. Jake’s family and the town will make readers want to head to Maine for a chocolate éclair, chocolate snickerdoodle, or double chocolate ginger cookie (recipe included for that one).
Always a favorite read, I look forward to a long life for the series. Could we have more recipes please?
Egg Drop Dead: A Noodle Shop Mystery by Vivien Chien
Review by Cynthia Chow
Proudly donning pink hair and a love of fast food, twenty-eight-year-old Lana Lee never imagined a future where she’d be back home working in her family’s Cleveland noodle shop. Even less probable was that she would do it so well, to the point that she is now Ho-Lee Noodle House’s manager and the one responsible for initiating their first catering job. Donna Feng’s fifty-ish birthday party with fifty of her nearest and dearest socialite friends was not the easy first-run trial Lana had intended, especially with all of the recent discord in the Feng household. A nanny for the twin teenaged girls should have alleviated some of the complications, but that’s off the plate when Lana discovers her body floating in the pool at the end of the night. Donna’s unstable temperament and recent outbursts have Westlake gossip linking her to the death of young Alice Kim, but Lana is adamant that the woman she has known since childhood could never have committed murder.
Lana’s recent involvement in criminal investigations has everyone in Asia Village expecting that she will do so again, and none more so than Donna herself. Leading Lana to a blackmail-worthy thumb drive along with a list of enemies, Donna has Lana questioning some of the wealthiest women in Cleveland. Far more intriguing is the trail that leads to Price Investigations, where Lydia Shepherd is a private investigator with skills Lana can’t help but envy. Lana takes a more forthright approach when detecting, going full-speed ahead with an attitude that is both too trusting and yet overly suspicious. At least her boyfriend police officer Adam Trudeau has accepted her adventures, albeit with the caveat that she keeps him appraised of her suspects, detailed in the investigation spiral notebook she keeps under her bed. Adam is less certain about the return of Lana’s ex, who not only broke her heart but was one of the reasons she returned home in the first place.
In this fifth of the series, Lana spends more time tracking down leads than she does managing the restaurant, but that doesn’t mean that there still isn’t a surfeit of delicious-sounding appetizers and meals to be had. Lana enlists her best friend and roommate Megan Riley as an investigative assistant, with strip club waitress Kimmy Tran coming along as a less-helpful, brash interrogator. The budding relationship between Lana and Lydia adds intriguing new possibilities for Lana’s future, with the noir-talking thirty-ish professional serving as a confident PI mentor. Lydia’s connections definitely provide her little “chickadee” with resources and information Lana would otherwise never have, especially helpful since she shows no sign of slowing her involvement in Asia Village crime.
This latest installment of her adventures serves up a delectably original twist with these Desperate Wives of Cleveland, and readers can continue to be delighted by Lana as the young woman embraces her culture, her identity, and her very involved family.
This book is a Barnes and Noble exclusive and can be purchased here.
Pies Before Guys: A Pie Town Mystery by Kirsten Weiss
Review by Cynthia Chow
Ever since Val Harris’s life imploded and she took over the Pie Town pastry shop in Northern California’s San Nicholas, she’s been looking for new ways to promote their specialized pie business. It was enthusiastic employee Abril Rivas who came up with the idea of a poetry slam night, which was an iffy event even before the professors started attempting to assault one another. While it was seventy-something piecrust-maker extraordinaire Charlotte McCree who was the one to finally smack Professor Michael Starke with a rubber spatula, her blow couldn’t have been responsible for the bloody attack that left him dead by a Prius. That he was murdered by the saber he rather recklessly waved around during his recital of “Charge of the Global Warming Brigade” once again places Pie Town in the midst of a murder investigation, one Charlotte just can’t wait to dive into. As one of the two members of the Baker Street Bakers – Val being the only other meddler – she enthusiastically leads them into the competitive realm of academia, where professors’ fragile egos and unstable marriages provide motives aplenty.
The death of her mother and abandonment by her mob-enforcer father has left Val with more than her share of relationship issues, which explains her attachment to the half-brother she only recently met. Charlotte is more than ready to toss Abril to Doran as romantic bait to keep in town, but Val is hesitant to ask her brother to stay in San Nicholas as they get to know one another. Fortunately for Val, Detective Gordon Carmichael is both patient and accepting of his girlfriend’s need to become involved in local investigations, and so long as he she keeps him informed he has no intention of ever leaving her side. At least their relationship stands as a healthy contrast to the shenanigans going on at the community college, where exes bounced between departments and spouses. A fermented wizardry professor, accusations of plagiarism, and a Molotov cocktail or two all make Charlotte’s latest UFO tourist-attraction scheme seem rather mundane.
Val and Charlotte’s friendship continue to be the highlight of this series, which in this fourth installment delightfully explores the eccentricities of the academia. Just when Charlotte seems a little too over-the-top or reckless, the brashness that cuts through the bull and truly gets to the heart of the matter reveals not just her wit but her sense of compassion. Usually wearing her feline Frederick like a scarf, Charlotte pulls Val into adventures that push her boundaries and yet somehow always work out for the best. Having Charlotte, Doran, Abril, and Gordon in Val’s life ensures not only that she will not have to face her future alone, but that it definitely will not be boring. Recipes that, of course, do not attempt to replicate Charlotte’s secret masterpiece crust are a tasty bonus, and even the inclusion of her nemesis into the Bakers can’t stop these genial investigators from being as supportive as they are fun. Readers don’t need to love pie in order to enjoy this novel full sarcastic humor and investigating antics, but few won’t be hankering for a custardy pie in a jar by the all-too-soon turn of the last page.
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 “trio food,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen March 28, 2020. 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 WILL TAKE LONGER THAN USUAL FOR WINNERS TO GET THEIR BOOKS DUE TO THE CURRENT CRISIS.
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