by Cynthia Chow
& Sandra Murphy
This week we have reviews & giveaways of a bunch of fun food mysteries-Cold Pressed Murder: An Olive Grove Mystery by Kelly Lane, Kneaded to Death: A Bread Shop Mystery By Winnie Archer, Roux the Day: A Dinner Club Mystery by Linda Wiken, and When the Grits Hit the Fan: A Country Store Mystery by Maddie Day. 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.
Cold Pressed Murder: An Olive Grove Mystery by Kelly Lane
Review by Sandra Murphy
What started out as a fun weekend for the Farm Family Fare, designed to promote the Knox family olive oils, sure doesn’t turn out that way. Activities included tours, exhibitions, music, tastings, and best of all, cooking demos with celebrity chefs. The two day event promised to be lively, but for one chef, it was not.
The lineup of chefs from the Chow Network features Ambrosia Curry, the sexpot chef. Her outfit is not the usual chef’s coat but a black lace body stocking with a tiny heart-shaped apron over it. After all, she is known as the Orgasmic Chef. Glenn Pattershaw is known as the Crusty Baker because he salts his patter with curse words as his fans wait to see what he’ll say next. Glenn is baking bread on a grill and raising hell about the heat. The third celeb is Master Chef Slick Simmer, as sexy as Ambrosia and with as many fans too. There’s a lot of trash talk between the three. They know just which buttons to push to get the ball rolling, and the audience engaged. After all, they are cooking over hot grills on a hot Southern day with a thousand people watching. Something’s got to keep the fans in place.
The trash talk seems pretty barbed and overly personal, but the chefs manage to keep a smile on their faces, at least in public. Eva can only wonder how her sister Daphne got the chefs to show up.
Chef Slick has a reputation of being quite the player. He travels in an RV, very posh, and says it’s so he can get up close and very personal with chosen fans. He has a stalker/fan who follows him everywhere but he doesn’t seem to mind. Then his body is found in the back of a refrigerated truck, next to ice cream tubs, hit over the head with the traditional blunt object. If there’s any truth to the tales of his love life, the suspect pool is as big as the ocean. Unfortunately, Daphne is one of the suspects. It seems she knew Slick from years ago. How well is anybody’s guess. Even Eva has to wonder, is Daphne innocent?
The police force includes Buck, Eva’s ex-boyfriend and current…whatever. He’s supposedly engaged to Debi who hates Eva. There are secrets, dating back to when Eva dumped Buck and left town. To hear them after all these years doesn’t hurt any less.
This is the second book in the Olive Grove Mystery series. Eva and her family are a mess but devoted to each other, as Southern families are. Buck remains a mystery, seemingly with Debi but wanting Eva and with scores of other women rumored to be part of his past. Dolly, Eva’s dog, can bring chaos to any scene and often does. Readers will also look forward to any page that includes Precious, Eva’s over the top friend.
Facts about olives and olive oil are scattered through the book without intruding on the plot or storyline. At the back of the book, find recipes for sweet and slightly spicy barbecue sauce, balsamic berry and peach olive oil scones, boozy peach-bourbon ice cream, olive oil and yogurt waffles, and cold-pressed olive oil peach cake.
Kneaded to Death: A Bread Shop Mystery by Winnie Archer
Review by Cynthia Chow
Ivy Culpepper has returned to the Central California’s town of Santa Sofia after the tragic death of her mother just six months ago. A promising photographer, Ivy has since lost her way and become overwhelmed with loss and depression. The one place of comfort has been her daily visits to Yeast of Eden, Santa Sofia’s local bread shop. It is also where Ivy has just signed up for bread-making classes in the hope of finding some kind of inspiration in her life. In Yeast of Eden she finds Olaya Solis, the owner of the Mexican-styled bakery, and her sisters Consuelo and Martina. The women believe in the healing power of baking, and while Ivy may have her doubts, she does not question the feeling of peace she finds there.
That tranquility is shattered when one of the students, Olaya’s friend Jackie Makers, is murdered in her car while parked just outside of Yeast of Eden. Nearly as upsetting is the discovery that Miguel Baptista, the high school boyfriend who broke Ivy’s heart, is back in Santa Sofia as well after the death of his owner father. At least her good friend Emmaline Davis is the investigating deputy sheriff, even if she refuses to admit to her race-crossing attraction to Ivy’s brother. Not for nothing is Santa Sofia a real-life soap opera, where everyone knows everyone else’s business and is more than happy to lend an opinion.
The somber reason for Ivy’s return is alleviated by Olaya’s dedication and appreciation of the art of baking. Ivy herself is as devoted to discovering the truth as was her late mother, and while Ivy may not know the details behind that accident, she is determined to resolve this new death. Shenanigans involving the local historical society and an imperious neighbor have Ivy combining forces to set up a surveillance ring, which has her discovering just how boring a stake-out can be. Although there is no small amount of humor and levity to be found in this debut series, the real attraction is Ivy and seeing her find her purpose in life again as she pulls herself out of stagnation. Heartstrings will be tugged by the time the final page is turned, promising for future deeply satisfying installments featuring this charming and inspiring new mystery heroine.
Roux the Day: A Dinner Club Mystery by Linda Wiken
Review by Cynthia Chow
It may have been the breakup with her fiancé that may have caused J.J. Tanner to quit her job at an advertising agency and move to Half Moon Bay, but it turned out to have been the best decision of her life. By taking up her college best friend’s offer to work at the event planning business Make It Happen, J.J. found happiness on the shoreline of Vermont’s Lake Champlain. Accustomed to living for the excitement of pursuing and keeping a client, J.J. is feeling the pressure of hosting her first event for a non-profit whose causes she supports. A cruise line’s The Lady of the Lake will be the site of a casino night, hosted by television news show personality Miranda Myers and radio DJ Connor Mac. J.J. has been platonically “going out” with Connor, but not actually dating him, which doesn’t seem to matter to the authorities when Miranda is murdered during the event after last seen arguing with Connor.
Despite their friendship, Connor never told J.J. that he had been engaged, much less that he was still on-again-off-again dating Miranda. His subsequent disappearance without notifying anyone that he was leaving town should give J.J. justification for being wary, but in her heart she knows that Connor is incapable of doing harm. The police are far less trusting, so J.J. feels that it is up to her to uncover alternative suspects for Miranda’s murder. The last person J.J. expected to lend a hand is private investigator Ty Devine, who had been hired by Miranda’s television studio to look into acts of vandalism on set and an attack on one off its staff. Sharing a little knowledge doesn’t mean that Ty wants J.J. to get involved though, so she will be on her own as she questions Miranda’s competitive coworkers, exes, and even local politicians. A much more enjoyable investigative task will be serving as a “mystery diner” for her friend Beth’s Cups ‘n’ Roses coffee shop, where an inexplicable number of random items seem to disappear without a culprit in sight.
The second in the Dinner Club Mystery series smoothly continues J.J.’s role as an amateur detective delving into police matters. This time, it is her guilt from introducing Miranda and Connor to the charity event that compels J.J. to deliver justice and clear Connor. The Culinary Capers Club, a group of friends who rotate hosting a meal around a designated cookbook, take the sideline but offer fun for mystery lovers when they focus on “The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook.” J.J.’s character is further expanded upon through her warm relationship with her visiting mother, which had its bumpy past during J.J.’s teen years but now has smoothed out despite the career-driven June Tanner’s wish for J.J. to have a conventional domestic life. Event planning details add sparks of fun, as do the meals the normally non-cooking J.J. enjoys. As the Culinary Capers Club welcomes in a new member to their delectable foodies, readers can anticipate further tasty mysteries with a dash of promising romance.
When the Grits Hit the Fan: A Country Store Mystery by Maddie Day
Review by Cynthia Chow
It’s been a slow winter season for South Lick, Indiana’s breakfast and lunch restaurant, Pans ‘N Pancakes. To make up for the lull in business, owner Robbie Jordan has been hosting the Friday night bimonthly meetings of Indiana University’s medical sociology department. The intellectual mix of graduate students and professors proves to be rife with jealousies and rivalries, mostly led by Napolean-complexed Professor Charles Stilton. His very public belittling of Lou Perlman, the professor’s student and Robbie’s friend, places Lou at the top of the suspect list when a snowshoeing venture has the women discovering Charles’s body under the ice.
As it turns out, the misogynistic, homophobic, elitist professor had more than deserved his share of enemies within the University and his own personal life. Psychologically abusive to both his wife and his son, Professor Stilton spread his unhappiness within his department. Considering that the investigating detective is now dating Robbie’s ex-boyfriend, Robbie’s input is not exactly appreciated. It’s just as well, as renovations within her building have Robbie discovering a cornucopia of treasures hidden within the renovated walls. When the trinkets lead to the discovery of a hidden tunnel, Robbie finds herself in her own real-life Nancy Drew mystery, but one with far more lethal results.
The author of numerous mysteries under the name Edith Maxwell, Maddie Day’s third in the Country Store Mystery series continues to expand upon Robbie’s intriguing personal history and new relationships. The discovery of the father her late mother never told her about has comforted Robbie even as it adds new complications in the form of a jealous new sister.
Light touches of romance are included with Robbie’s growing closeness with contractor Abe O’Neill, and as she closes in on thirty, she is finding a new maturity and confidence in her life. There are more than enough descriptions of breakfast delicacies and meals to please fans of the culinary mystery genre, while the development of characters and intriguing plot will draw in even those who skim past tantalizing treats and elaborately depicted preparations. Yet who could resist those? This blend of academia and small-town secrets satisfies on so many levels, and the included recipes are an added bonus.
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 April 1, 2017. 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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