by Cynthia Chow
& Sandra Murphy
More food mysteries for your reading fun-Death by Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake: A Death by Chocolate Mystery by Sarah Graves, Hummus and Homicide: Kebab Kitchen Mystery By Tina Kashian, Plum Tea Crazy: A Tea Shop Mystery by Laura Childs, and Marinating in Murder: A Dinner Club Mystery by Linda Wiken. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 4 books, along with links you can use to purchase them.
Death by Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake: A Death by Chocolate Mystery by Sarah Graves
Review by Sandra Murphy
Jacobia (Jake) Tiptree has been renovating her house and her life since she arrived in Maine. Both needed a good overhaul. Jake’s best friend, Ellie, is ready for a change. Being the practical sort, something new should also make money. Jake’s all for that idea.
The pair decide to open a chocolate bakery. To raise money for the Fourth of July fireworks display, Jake and Ellie are to make a dozen chocolate cherry cheesecakes. That plan is in jeopardy when Jake arrives early and finds a man’s body in the kitchen, his head in their very expensive melted chocolate.
The dead guy turns out to be Matt Muldoon, a guy who’d been annoying Jake and Ellie (and others) with his constant complaints—all bogus but time-consuming products of his imagination. Since he dropped by to harass Ellie as she baked the night before his death, she’s a prime suspect. Jake and Ellie have investigated murders before, so they know just what to do.
The tourists are pouring into town for the holiday weekend, but the weatherman is warning of a possible hurricane headed their way. Do they leave or do they stay? In either case, the baking must go on.
With the shop closed, Jake and Ellie bake at the house. When the dozen cheesecakes turns into twenty-eight, it’s almost more than they can deal with—especially since they’re out of chocolate since the murder. When their chocolate supplier and her dog are attacked, things really get desperate. After his stay at the veterinarian’s office, the dog is ready to be released although his person is still hospitalized. Of course, the dog ends up at Jake’s too—where else?
The mystery is a good one with the weather playing a huge role in what Jake and Ellie are able to accomplish—or not. Jake and Ellie adapt to unexpected changes and emergencies that would have most people eating all the chocolate cheesecakes, instead of baking more. Pay close attention to the characters. Now that Jake and Ellie are businesspeople, there are more names to keep track of—the neighboring business owners, suppliers, organizers for the holiday events.
Although the cover says first in a new series, it’s actually book seventeen. In the first books, Jake concentrated on home repairs and solving murders with Ellie. This is the first book with their chocolate bakery. Readers will be happy to see their new endeavor. And yes, Ellie shares her grandmother’s recipe for Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake. The cover art alone is enough to make you crave a big slice.
Hummus and Homicide: Kebab Kitchen Mystery By Tina Kashian
Review by Sandra Murphy
Going home again is always a challenge, but after you’ve been passed over for a deserved promotion, the last thing you want is for your family to plan out your entire future for you before you’ve even unpacked.
Lucy Berberian is a patent lawyer and in line to make partner until she found out a man with less experience got the spot. Rather than say she quit, she tells her family she’s on a month’s sabbatical, but all anyone hears is she’s home for good. That’s followed by “here’s an apron, help with the lunch shift” just like when she lived at home years before. It’s like nothing has changed.
The Kebab Kitchen is her family’s Mediterranean restaurant in Ocean City, New Jersey. Lucy’s father insists writing food orders by hand is better than a computerized system. He does payroll and ordering while her mom and Butch, a long-time employee, cook the food. Her sister is one of the servers. Sometimes family can be smothering.
Lucy runs into Heather, one of the mean girls from high school. Heather has taken over her father’s job—health inspector for restaurants, including the Kebab Kitchen. Heather still has big hair, long nails, high heels, and a nasty attitude. One thing has changed—she also has a well-known writer for a boyfriend.
Heather finds violations that have no merit, seemingly just to annoy the owners—and it works. One of the things Heather noted at the Kebab Kitchen was the sneeze guard on their hummus bar. In spite of her criticism, Heather tries all the flavors with a glass of tea.
Later, when Lucy takes out the trash, there’s Heather’s body in the alley. The police wait for toxicology reports but think she was poisoned—and the only place she ate was at the Kebab Kitchen. Lucy’s a suspect, her parents are in a panic that the restaurant will close, and they’ve decided since Lucy is an attorney, she can solve the murder. No pressure!
Lucy has a chance to discover what she really wants from her life—if only she had any ideas. Her former boyfriend is around and her parents are pushing them to reconcile. It’s a shock when her parents pass along the news they might sell the restaurant.
This is the first in a new series that promises to be an enjoyable one. There’s a possibility of a romantic triangle, increased pressure to marry, new career choices, and more, if only she can figure out who killed Heather.
Find recipes for Angela’s Famous Traditional Hummus, Azad’s Tabbouleh Salad, and Lucy’s White Almond Cookies in the back of the book. The food descriptions throughout the book will leave you drooling, especially for baklava.
Plum Tea Crazy: A Tea Shop Mystery by Laura Childs
Review by Sandra Murphy
Charleston is known for its society events. Theodosia gets to attend a lot of them, one way or another. This time it’s the Gaslights and Galleons Parade as seen from the widow’s walk at Timothy Neville’s mansion. He’s in charge of the historical society, just getting back on its financial feet after a downturn in donations. Some of Charleston’s elite are in attendance.
Local banker Carson Lanier is one of the guests. When he suddenly falls over the railing and slides down the roof, it’s a futile hope that he can catch himself before tumbling from the third floor. He never had a chance—his landing was on the wrought iron fence, impaling him.
Theo and Drayton, her right-hand man at her tea shop, rush to see if he’s still alive only to discover, he was also shot but with an antique sort of crossbow/gun combination. Being a banker, suspects are automatic from business deals gone wrong, a soon-to-be ex-wife who now inherits everything, a rumored girlfriend, a real estate partner, and even a handyman.
It’s fairly easy to determine the shot came from the house next door—a small hotel. That means no one would notice just who was in and out at the right time. A more puzzling question is who would have access to the weapon?
In the midst of it all, Theo still has a tea shop to run, the Plum Tea to plan, and a new employee to train. In spite of first impressions, the new guy, Jamie, proves to be more helpful than expected. As usual, Theo and her team, including her dog, Earl Grey, have more energy than ten other people combined—and the skills to find out who the killer is.
This is book nineteen in the series that still keeps readers coming back for more. Theo has a new love interest who is most promising. Haley rules the kitchen, turning out delectable meals. Drayton imparts the background of each tea or blend to customers as well as readers while keeping it interesting. And Earl Grey steals every scene he’s in. The mystery will keep you guessing until the end.
Childs shares recipes for Haley’s Plum Crazy Crisp, Cinnamon Whipped Cream, Turkey Waldorf Tea Sandwiches, Sinfully Chocolate Tea Bread, Baked French Toast, Greek Meatloaf, Apple-Yogurt Chicken Bake, Old-Fashioned Griddle Scones, Drayton’s Easy-Peary Devonshire Cream and Asparagus and Gruyère Cheese Tarts. Also included are Tea Time Tips From Laura Childs.
Childs also writes the scrapbooking mysteries (fourteen, so far), the Cackleberry Club series (seven), two anthologies, and as Gerry Schmitt, the Afton Tangler thrillers, Little Girl Gone and Shadow Girl.
Marinating in Murder: A Dinner Club Mystery by Linda Wiken
Review by Cynthia Chow
The Culinary Capers Dinner Club of Burlington, Vermont, is shaking up their usual routine as they host their annual lunch picnic. Instead of a dinner planned out according to one selected cookbook, their rotation has Alison Manovich organizing a just-as-delicious luncheon picnic. It’s unfortunate that when she opens her SUV to fill with coolers of their delicious, homemade treats, the vehicle is already stuffed full with a brutally beaten corpse. Alison is shocked to find the body of her estranged husband inside, while the rest of her friends are stunned with the news that Alison was still married. Event planner J.J. Turner was among those who had thought that her police detective friend had long since divorced James Bailey, but that doesn’t change J.J.’s belief in Alison’s innocence.
With Alison on paid leave and mourning her past life, the rest of the Culinary Capers Dinner Club step in to once again investigate a murder. Having learned to plan out and organize party events as well as meal preparations, J.J. utilizes these same skills to help unravel the very complex puzzle that was James Bailey. Allison too learns that there is much she did not know about her late spouse, with the number of unwanted surprises matched only by the growing number of suspects.
One of the greatest achievements of this series is how the author crafts such diverse and immensely likable characters for the Culinary Capers Dinner Club. They bond over meals, but long after dessert they continue to share news and support one another through midlife crises and tragedies. Their loyalty and affection for one another is what leads them to delve into police matters, not any inherent nosiness or obsession with murder. Linda Wiken, aka Erika Chase, skillfully develops these relatable characters whose lives somehow become so enmeshed with food and crime. J.J. is flawed but very intelligent, and even when she strays down dangerous paths her subconscious alerts her to clues and prevent her from becoming a victim.
Her romantic life may be picking up, but J.J. will have to trust her instincts in order to make the best choice. Sprinkled throughout the novel are J.J’s meeting with her event-planning clients, many with whims that only add moments of humor and eye-rolling. This third in the series serves up more than its share of suspense, food porn, and thoroughly engaging characters.
For those who like recipes added, Wiken includes Braised Beef with Red Wine in a Slow Cooker, Shrimp Scampi, and Black Rice Pudding, Coconut Milk, and Papaya.
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 “even more food,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen March 31, 2018. 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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