April Food Mysteries from Penguin For Your Spring Reading

Apr 9, 2016 | 2016 Articles, Food Fun, Mysteryrat's Maze, Sandra Murphy

by Sandra Murphy

Check out some more fun food mysteries from Penguin authors for your spring reading-Vanilla Beaned: A Cupcake Bakery Mystery by Jenn McKinlay, Rest in Peach: A Georgia Peach Mystery by Susan Furlong, and A Clue in the Stew: A Soup Lover’s Mystery by Connie Archer. Details at the end of this post on how to win a copy of all 3, and a link to purchase them.

Vanilla Beaned: A Cupcake Bakery Mystery by Jenn McKinlay
Review by Sandra Murphy

Mel, Tate, and Angie are off to Vegas to interview a woman who wants to franchise their cupcake bakery. Tate, the business brain of the bunch, says franchising is the way to go to expand the business. Angie’s been in love with Tate forever and agrees. Mel is much more hesitant about the whole thing. What if they get a dud who ruins the reputation of their bakery?

Marty and Oz round out the staff at the cupcake shop, Marty being the older gent and Oz the youngest member of the group. Things took a downward turn when Marty took up with Olivia, a rival baker, but so far, so good. Olivia hasn’t calmed down any, but any warfare has remained verbal, a step up from happenings in the past. Mel ends up meeting Holly, Stuart their lawyer and Scott the realtor, alone, since Tate and Angie got sidetracked in one of the casinos. The shop is cute from the outside, has lots of foot traffic, and is small but cozy. book

While Mel and Holly talk, Stuart’s been on the phone, Scott smoking while they waited. When Scott’s ready to unlock the door, he drops his cigarette to put it out—and the whole storefront explodes!

Scott ends up in the hospital in pretty bad shape, Stuart just a little worse for wear with cuts and scrapes. Holly and Mel were still far enough away from the door to be safe. Mel’s finally convinced to look at another location the next day—Angie’s brother, the one who gets to the farthest edge of legal, “knows a guy” who has a place for rent.
Just as Quentin, the new realtor, is locking the door, a car roars up onto the sidewalk and crashes into the front window. Another possibility kaput. Once could be a coincidence. Twice? No way.

Joe, Angie’s brother and Mel’s former fiancé, is a prosecutor trying a mobster who’s known to go after loved ones of anyone who gets in his way. Is the mobster after Mel or is someone determined to see to it that Holly stays a showgirl?

Suspects include Holly’s ex-husband, her stalker, an understudy, crazy Olivia after Mel, or someone they haven’t even thought of yet.

Marty and Oz get to go to Vegas because once the icing hits the fan, you need all the backup you can get—even when they dress like Elvis to blend in with the Elvis convention so they can snoop. Manny, the cop who really likes Mel, is along because if it’s the mobster, then it’s his jurisdiction. At least Angie’s brothers (seven) and Mel’s over-protective mother haven’t shown up.

Romance is in the air as well as mystery and mayhem. After all, this is Vegas, home to 24-hour wedding chapels. You’ll just have to read the book to see who ends up standing before Elvis, ready to become a ‘hunka, hunka burning love.’

Mel shared recipes for vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream frosting, Snickerdoodle cupcakes (vanilla cinnamon cupcake with cinnamon frosting), the Elvis (banana cupcake/peanut butter frosting), and cherry cola cupcakes (chocolate cola cupcake with cherry cola frosting).

This is book eight in the series. After the ending of this episode, number nine ought to be a real treat. McKinlay also writes the Hat Shop Mystery series (there are four) and the Library Lover’s mysteries (six). There’s an excerpt of number seven, Better Late Than Never, included—coming soon in hardcover.

Rest in Peach: A Georgia Peach Mystery by Susan Furlong
Review by Sandra Murphy

It’s time for the Peach Cotillion, the big event in Cays Mill, Georgia. Nola Mae missed her own, long story, but is being roped into this one, thanks to her friend Ginny. There are practices and etiquette classes so the young ladies know which fork to use and when. The most fun, though, is when the dresses come in. Everyone in town is on the lookout for the delivery truck and before the boxes are even unpacked, Hattie’s boutique is filled with young girls waiting to be fitted. Of course, their mamas are along to make sure things run smoothly.

Vivien is the pushiest of the mamas, making sure her daughter, Tara, is first in line for any alterations. Too bad her dress is the last out of the box—or does that belong to Emily? A mix up in the order means only one dress came in; two girls want it and Hattie’s in the middle. Ginny ends up giving in, but not before she loses her temper in front of everyone, vowing to make Vivien sorry. book

Vivien’s highhandedness extends to deciding she’ll come back for the completely fitted dress at 6:30, even though the store closes at 6:00. The seamstress, Mrs. Busby, agrees to do the rush job and wait for her.

The next morning, right after church, Hattie gets a phone call that changes everything. Vivien has been found in the shop, dress clutched in her hand, and a pair of scissors through her throat. This pretty much makes Ginny the number one suspect, but it seems Vivien might have had other enemies as well.

Nola Mae is opening Peachy Keen, her own little space to sell all things peach—preserves, salsa, and some consignment goods as well. Between trying to get Ginny off the hook for murder, helping with the cotillion luncheon, figuring out what’s wrong between Hattie and her boyfriend Pete, what’s up with Cade, Nola’s own boyfriend, and the added stress of high school boyfriend Hawk back in town, it’s a wonder Peachy Keen will open on time.

Southern towns have their secrets and you never know when one is going to pop up. This is the second in the series (Peaches and Scream was the first), and Nola Mae is really coming into her own. She’s a good friend, takes care of her family, doesn’t do anything to put herself into danger, and is funny, too.

Furlong’s books give readers a look into Southern small town culture and makes us all want to go for a long visit, to eat Sam’s cooking at Ginny’s diner, to visit Pete’s florist shop and Hattie’s boutique, and to get some spicy peach preserves at Peachy Keen.

Recipes for peach-cobbler cupcakes, peachy pecan salad, and sparkling peach cotillion punch are included. Look for “War and Peach,” book three, coming soon.

A Clue in the Stew: A Soup Lover’s Mystery by Connie Archer
Review by Sandra Murphy

Lucky Jamieson might be one of the only people in town who hasn’t heard of Hilary Stone, author of the best seller, Murder Comes Calling. The town is in an uproar because not only is Hilary coming to town for a book signing, she’s thinking about moving there, so she has a quiet place to write the next book.

When a leaky roof conspires with a mix up in the date of the book signing, the author is left without a venue until Lucky is persuaded to host the event at her restaurant, By the Spoonful, famous for its soups. The PR people are less than impressed, but Hilary is gracious, at least in public, which is more than you can say about Hilary’s whiny, drunken daughter-in-law or her plain old whiny son. book

The only thing that might spoil the whole thing is the body of a woman found in the woods. She is dressed nicely, definitely not out for a hike, and has no identification with her. There’s no sign of her car either.

There are mini-mysteries at the restaurant too. Hank and Barry always arrive at the same time each morning for coffee and the special of the day. When Barry arrives alone, it’s cause for comment. As the days pass and no one’s seen Hank, can’t reach him on the phone, and his car is gone, the worry factor goes up a few notches. It’s just not like him to leave without a word.

Meg, the sole waitress at the restaurant, is just about burned out from working alone. The “waitress wanted” sign has been in the window for a while but there are no takers—except Flo who used to work there and who has her hat set for Lucky’s grandpa Jack. Lucky finally promises to hire the next person who’s interested in the job, which sadly for everyone is Nanette. She looks more like a floozy than a waitress, although when she can be persuaded to leave Jack’s side by the register, she does take care of her customers, especially the men. Her application leaves a lot to be desired and she has no identification or Social Security card with her for Lucky’s records.

Nanette’s not there a full day before she’s making suggestions for improvements to the food, the décor, and the uniforms. Lucky would get rid of her, but Jack is smitten, and it would cause World War Three between him and Lucky to do so.

Just when Lucky thinks things can’t get any worse, Hilary is found dead in her room at the B&B. The list of suspects might be long, but motive and opportunity can rule some of them out. Unfortunately, Hank was seen going into the B&B just before the murder took place. No one knows why, but it looks bad when his glasses are found in Hilary’s room.

This is book five in the series, and I think the best one yet. Lucky doesn’t take dangerous risks, works to decipher the clues with her friends from the restaurant, and there are layers of plots to figure out. Just remember—everybody has secrets.

At the back of the book, find recipes for cream of asparagus soup, Asian tofu noodle soup, fennel and date salad, tomato pepper soup, and corn and cheese cakes.

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 “spring food,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen April 16, 2016. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.

Click on this link to purchase any of these books. If you have ad blocker on you may not see this link:


Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the Arch, in the land of blues, booze and shoes—St Louis, Missouri. While writing magazine articles to support her mystery book habit, she secretly polishes mystery books of her own, hoping, someday, they will see the light of Barnes and Noble and a Kindle. You can find several of Sandra’s short stories at Untreed Reads including her newest, “Arthur,” included in the anthology titled, Flash and Bang, available now. Look for Denali, in the anthology Dogs and Dragons.


  1. These are all on my TBR list. They’ll be hitting the beach with me once the semester’s over.

  2. I love these series. Jenn, Susan, and Connie are super authors of great reading adventures. I have all three books on my ‘must read’ list. Fingers crossed! Cupcakes! Peaches! and Stew, Oh my!!

  3. This would be a great book to add to my cozy challenge list. Thanks for the chance to win a copy. elainehroberson@gmail.com

  4. All three of these authors are favorites of mine. The Cupcake mysteries are a great read and it’ll be good to see what Mel, Angie and Tate are up to in the new book. I can’t wait to visit Snowflake VT for the soup lovers mystery. Then it will be great to visit the south for peach sesson. Great giveaway, thanks.

  5. Great reviews as always! I look forward to reading these!

  6. Thanks so much for the chance to win! I want to read all of them!

    ElaineE246 at msn dot com

  7. Three amazing books by great authors and they all have recipes in them! So exciting! I love to cook and bake and I love finding new recipes to try out.
    Thank you so much for offering this giveaway.

  8. I need these books in my life!! 🙂

  9. Awesome that I get a chance to win!! Favorite author is definitely Jenn McKinlay and am looking forward to reading her new book.

  10. All of these books sound awesome! I would love to give them a happy home! Thanks for the opportunity!

  11. Thanks for an interesting review on 3 of my favorite series!

  12. To win one book would be great since these are written by 3 great authors but to win all 3 is like died and gone to heaven.

  13. I am a fan of the Cupcake Mystery series, and I would love to win Vanilla Beaned! Rest in Peach and A Clue in the Stew sound like wonderful books. Thank you for the giveaway.
    myrifraf (at) gmail (dot) com

  14. I love these authors. And these are all on my TBR list.

  15. 3 great choices. I’d love to read them all! Thankyou for the opportunity! Jill Broussard; minishoes@msn.com

  16. The synopsis on these books are most intriguing and would very much like to read them. On my TBR. But hoping to read them sooner rather than later. Thank you for the chance to do so

  17. Did someone say free books? Thanks for the giveaway!

  18. Looking forward to reading all of these books ??????

  19. Can’t wait to read these! Thank you for a chance to win! 🙂

  20. My two favorite things —eating and books —-not necessarily in that order. These do sound like terrific stories –

  21. Again – skipped the email address – annettena@yahoo.com – I could claim a head injury, but would not be true.

  22. I’m looking forward to all of these cozies because these are all series that I enjoy. I have them on my TBR list.

  23. Would so love to win!!! Thank you for the chance!!!

  24. Great reviews (thank you), authors, series, recipes! All are on my wish list.

  25. These are all on my Goodreads TBR shelf.

  26. Would love to win these books, thanks! mjonaip(at)yahoo(dot)com

  27. I haven’t read these before, would love to win! Thanks!

  28. These all look like great books to read….

  29. Reading these is NOT the way to lose weight!! But ….. I don’t care.

  30. Would love to read and review all three books. It would be a blessing .

  31. Thanks for the chance to win

  32. These all sound like great fun!

  33. Food mysteries are yum-a-licious reading! Thanks for the opportunity to enter! dlbaldetti@gmail.com

  34. All three of these books sound great — I love culinary mysteries!
    Digicats {at} Sbcglobal {dot} Net

  35. What a set of great authors and titles! Thanks for the chance to win!

  36. They all sound great! Thanks for the giveaway.

  37. With all the great new books coming out each month, a person needs a job just to keep up with them. Thanks for all the information. I really enjoy following your blog. robeader53@yahoo.com

  38. I would love to try out some of the new recipes in this latest book, after I enjoy reading another of her cozy mysteries.
    Debbi Goodman-Smith

  39. We have a winner!


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