by Cynthia Chow
& Sandra Murphy
This week we have another fun group of food and drink related mysteries for your Easter Feast-Death of a Blueberry Tart: A Hayley Powell Mystery by Lee Hollis, On the Lamb: A Kitchen Kebab Mystery by Tina Kashian, Revenge Is Sweet: A Vintage Sweets Mystery by Kaye George, and Lavender Blue Murder: A Tea Shop Mystery by Laura Childs. 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. If you have ad blocker on you won’t see the Amazon links at the end of each review.
Death of a Blueberry TartL A Hayley Powell Mystery by Lee Hollis
Review by Cynthia Chow
All Hayley Powell was looking forward to was spending a honeymoon cruise to the Bahamas with her new hubby and Island Times coworker Bruce Linney. Not even the very unexpected arrival of her mother – master of the arts of judgmental non-judgmental observations – could rain on her parade. Flying in from Florida, after breaking up with her longtime bingo boyfriend, Sheila has landed on her daughter’s doorstep in Bar Harbor, Maine, to recuperate and even petsit while the couple is away. It’s also an opportunity for Sheila to reunite with her high school besties Celeste and Jane, who just happen to be the mothers of Hayley’s own two best friends. Unfortunately, the last-minute Class of 1968 reunion reignites their hatred for Caskie Lemon-Hogg, the “Blueberry Tart” whom they accuse of being a boyfriend-stealer and test-taking-cheater. Caskie’s taking out a restraining order against Sheila (after some not-very-veiled threats) places Sheila very high on the suspect list when she finds Caskie strangled to death in the next room of their B&B.
While Hayley can’t believe that her brother-in-law, Police Chief Sergio Alvarez, would arrest his own mother-in-law, Hayley’s not about to sit on the sidelines of the investigation. She enlists her usual co-conspirators Liddy and Mona, only to find that their mothers have already beaten them to the punch and organized their own Golden Girls Detective Trio. With the two teams of women battling out their mother-daughter issues while attempting to discover who took out the possibly unjustly-demonized Caskie, the challenge will be if they can survive without being taken out by a ruthless killer or one another.
The plot twists of this twelfth of the series dodge and swerve so unexpectedly that it should be impossible for readers to nail down the killer before our intrepid BFF detectives. The real fun of this mystery is spending time with the mothers and daughters, whose issues are as relatable as they are hilarious. Seeing Hayley and Sheila passive-aggressively interact is a delight, as no one knows how to push one’s buttons like a mother. The love they have for one another is unquestionable, but so are the decades of resentment and irritations. Reliably entertaining are Hayley’s Islands Food & Spirits columns, which not only provide heart-warming and laugh-out-loud reminiscence scenes from her life, they include genuinely delicious blueberry drinks and treats. The brother-sister writing duo who are Lee Hollis serve up the perfect antidote to a world gone crazy with their sparkling dialogue, engaging characters, and ingenious shenanigans of a beloved heroine.
On the Lamb: A Kitchen Kebab Mystery by Tina Kashian
Review by Cynthia Chow
Just before the summer begins and the New Jersey town of Ocean Crest becomes inundated with tourists, the charity event Bikers on the Beach roars through the streets raising money for injured veterans. Lucy Berberian and her friends have been invited to a bonfire hosted by Harley-riding participant Michael Citteroni, the bicycle shop owner and neighbor to her family’s restaurant. Lucy is looking forward to a relaxing evening on the beach while making s’mores, but her plans are interrupted by the confrontation between candy maker Melanie Haven and her rent-raising landlord Gilbert Lubinski. Lucy had herself already met the obnoxious businessman through his aunt, who was renting out the top floor of her building as an apartment. Lucy had finally made the momentous decision to move out of her parents’ home and octogenarian Eloise Lubinski was looking for way to keep her nephew from forcing her into an assisted living facility. So when Lucy has the misfortune to discover Gilbert’s body on the beach, there should be no shortage of suspects with interest in having the greedy landlord out of their lives. Unfortunately, with his not only being bludgeoned to death by driftwood but having root beer saltwater taffy stuffed down his throat, suspicion points in Melanie’s direction, who has the most obvious motives for wanting him dead.
While Lucy can’t believe that the owner of Haven Candies who crafts mouth-watering fudge and confections could have been able of fatally cramming her prized taffy into Gilbert, it’s apparent that Melanie is not telling the entire truth about her history with the victim. While Detective Calvin Clemmons is growing resigned to Lucy’s involvement in his cases and her bestie’s husband is an Ocean Crest police officer, she does place herself at risk when breaking into offices and going through files. At least frequent accomplice Katie Watson is fast on her feet with excuses, allowing the rest of their investigations to be on the nosier/questioning neighbors side. Even more delicate is maneuvering around the hurt feelings of her “retired” parents, who find relinquishing their control over the Kebab Kitchen restaurant as challenging as seeing their daughter grow up and move out. Lucy’s struggling with new maturity herself, as while she is more than happy with the new relationship with her ex-now-current boyfriend and head chef Azad Zakarian, his being enthusiastically approved of by her parents have her wanting to resist rebel just on principle. Azad having his own connection with the victim brings new light and additional suspects to the murder investigation, which is already filled with estranged wives, angry tenants, and an ambitious reporter hot on the case.
Scenes depicting the back-of-the-house activities and details involved managing a Mediterranean restaurant are just as fun and fascinating as those following Lucy’s amateur detecting. Completely irresistible are the kitchen lessons given to Lucy by her mother, who through the passing on of family and Armenian traditions also conveys more subtle messages. Now that Michael has been officially friend-zoned, Azad’s use of food for romance will have both Lucy and readers falling for him. Lucy’s easy likability, her evolving relationships with her parents, and the exploration of Armenian culture ensure the popularity of this compelling and original mystery series.
Revenge Is Sweet: A Vintage Sweets Mystery by Kaye George
Review by Sandra Murphy
Tally Holt had a successful bakery. Then she made a trip back to her old almost-home town of Fredericksburg, Texas. Her parents are show people and travel the world performing. Tally and her brother, Cole, traveled with them for a while, before staying with grandma.
Yolanda, Tally’s BFF growing up, convinces Tally to close her bakery and move back. The store next to Yolanda’s gift basket shop is for sale. What could be better? Moving in mid-June means business is a bit slow, but that gives her time to fine tune recipes for candies as well as baked goods. She does her own version of Mallomars, Twinkies, whoopie pies, and more. Tourist season will start soon and business will be brisk. She’s pretty sure of that anyway.
Tally has two employees. Andrea is full-time, Mart, short for Martha, is part-time. Gene, adopted son of the mayor and town bad boy, is a handyman. Handy with repairs and handy with the ladies. It seems he’s putting the moves on Yolanda, Andrea, Mart, and someone named Dorella. Each thinks she’s the only one. They’ve all loaned him money.
When Gene is found in Tally’s kitchen, stabbed to death, it’s a toss up as to who will be the best suspect. Gene didn’t get along with his parents, neither of whom seems to regret his death, the women in his life, the people he owed money to, the assistant he didn’t pay, the list goes on and on. However, the police quickly zero in on Yolanda. Tally investigates to clear her friend.
This is the first book in a delightful new series. What’s not to love? Tally describes her baked goods and candies, Yolanda’s baskets, Tally’s good looking brother is there for a visit, and there’s a Maine Coon cat named Nigel. Tally tends to get excited easily, but then she’s not used to dead bodies in her kitchen. Yolanda is the colorful and creative friend everyone would love to have. There’s a recipe for homemade Twinkies at the back of the book, plus a preview of book two.
This is a series you’ll love. Luckily, book two, Deadly Sweet Tooth, will be out in June, available for Kindle pre-order now.
We’ll be needing that fudge recipe, too!
Lavender Blue Murder: A Tea Shop Mystery by Laura Childs
Review by Sandra Murphy
Reginald Doyle loves all things English. One of his passions is a bird hunt in the manner of an English shooting party. Theodosia and Drayton, of tea shop fame, are invited. Hunters are divided into pairs, complete with assigned areas, so there are no accidents.
However, that idea was not enough protection after all. A shot rings out too close to Theo and Drayton’s area and Reginald is found dead. There doesn’t seem to be any way it could have been an accident. Complicating matters, his wife Meredith, stepson Alex, caretaker Jack, several businessmen were on the hunt but suspects would also include neighbors—one warring, one peaceful. It’s likely Reginald knew his killer. A stranger would have been noticed immediately.
When Meredith asks Theo to help discover what really happened, Meredith is high strung under any circumstances and is over the top now. Alex’s wife is a mousy woman who hardly makes a peep. Meredith practically demands that Theo and Drayton spend the night at her home so she’s not so alone in the house. Theo wakes in the middle of the night to smell smoke and discover the house is on fire. Everyone is safe, but the house will need major renovations.
As if all that’s not enough, Alex’s wife goes missing. It’s assumed she’d been boating in bad weather and fell overboard. Or not. Things aren’t looking good for either Alex or Meredith.
In the meantime, there’s a tea shop to run, a séance dreamt up by Meredith, catering the wake, a will to be found, and a lavender tea to plan and host. Next to Reginald’s property are fields of lavender, grown for sale by the Lavender Lady, who will give a talk at the tea.
Theo hasn’t been one to shy away from a dangerous situation when she felt it was necessary, and this case proves to be no different. This is book twenty-one in the popular series. Drayton, Miss Dimple, Haley, and Theo work together in perfect harmony. Drayton develops his own blends of tea, Miss Dimple is the perfect employee to serve, Haley is a wizard in the kitchen, and Theo keeps all the wheels turning.
Ever generous with extra information, recipes include: Hawaiian tea sandwiches, pear butter, ham and sun-dried tomato pasta, ginger cardamom tea cookies, chicken breasts in lemon caper sauce, cream cheese and green olive tea sandwiches, porch buttermilk biscuits, parsley and bacon tea rounds, London fog latte, Chai-spiced fruit compote, parmesan and prosciutto puff baby, and candied edible flowers. There are sections on tea time tips and tea resources, and an excerpt from Egg Shooters, the ninth addition to the Cackleberry Club series. Childs also writes the New Orleans Scrapbooking Mysteries (16) with the help of co-author Terrie Moran. Under her real name, Gerry Schmitt, Childs has two Afton Tangler thrillers.
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 “easter feast,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen April 11, 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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