by Cynthia Chow
& Sandra Murphy
Spring is here and it seemed a perfect time for some more fun food related mysteries from Penguin! This week we have Death on Eat Street: A Biscuit Bowl Food Truck Mystery by J.J. Cook, Sugar and Iced: A Cupcake Bakery Mystery By Jenn McKinlay, and Sweet Tea Revenge by Laura Childs. Details at the end of this post on how to win a copy of all three!
Death on Eat Street: A Biscuit Bowl Food Truck Mystery By J.J. Cook
Review by Cynthia Chow
Exasperated after once again losing out on a promotion, Zoe Chase quit her job as a bank loan officer, sold her apartment and purchased a run-down diner in order to pursue her dream of owning a restaurant in Mobile, Alabama. Until she gets enough funds to renovate more than just the kitchen, Zoe has to serve her fried biscuit bowls out of her uncle’s Airstream motor home. The food truck business is definitely competitive, but Zoe never thought that it was cut-throat to the point where she would discover the body of lecherous Terry of Terry’s Taco Tacky Tacos dumped inside her beloved Biscuit Bowl.
Zoe’s mother may be a prominent attorney on the pathway to a judgeship, but it is actually one of the homeless men she feeds who arranges for her to hire Miguel Alexander to defend her and a friend when they come under suspicion. Miguel does what he can to dissuade Zoe from investigating the competing food truck owners, but his efforts prove futile after she is held up twice, receives threats and the Biscuit Bowl is vandalized and invaded. The trail will lead Zoe and her adopted employees to a near-priceless recipe that more than one crook believes she has in her possession.
At twenty-nine years old, Zoe is still struggling to assert her independence from her parents. It’s a battle that proves to be rather difficult, considering that they are willing to stage a kidnapping intervention on the belief that she lost her mind when she quit her job and dumped her investment broker boyfriend. While Zoe may still resort to ducking out of the bathroom to escape her parents, she has the fortitude to make hilariously unsuccessful advancements on the clueless, but emotionally wounded Miguel.
J.J. Cook, the married writing team who also write numerous mystery series under the names Joyce and Jim Lavene, craft a light-hearted and funny debut novel of a future series filled with delightfully eccentric and lovable characters.
Food trucks are hot right now, and the details surrounding this competitive market are fascinating. Foodies will appreciate the absolutely delicious descriptions of biscuit bowl sweet and savory fillings, and Zoe’s love of feeding others always shines through. Toss in Zoe’s obese food-truck feline companion (and probable health code violation) Crème Brulee into the mix and you have a mystery sure to please fans who relish mysteries filled with recipes, pets, humor and romance.
Sugar and Iced: A Cupcake Bakery Mystery By Jenn McKinlay
Review by Cynthia Chow
“It’s a bunch of girls in poufy dresses competing for a sparkly crown and some scholarship money…How bad can it really be?”
If you’re Fairy Tale Cupcake bakery owner, Melanie Cooper, and you’re making the cupcakes for the Sweet Tiara Beauty Pageant, then pretty bad. After turning down the marriage proposal of “Dear Joe” DeLaura, Mel’s mother, Joyce, hasn’t spoken to her in months. Participating in the beauty pageant is the only way Mel can think of to force them into a détente. Beauty pageants may represent everything that Mel abhors, but the four-year college scholarship it awards to the winner has even Guadalupe “Lupe” Guzman, the green-haired skater buddy of one of Mel’s employees, willing to compete, with Joyce Cooper as a coach.
Mel has been in love with Joe ever since she was twelve years-old, but in the year and a half that they’ve been dating she has shied away from committing to him, partially due to her attraction to Detective Manny Martinez, but mostly out of the fear of the pain she would endure if she were ever to lose his love. Mel’s best friends and business partners are facing their own stumbling blocks, as Tate Harper doesn’t feel fully worthy of Angie DeLaura, despite their mutual love until he can prove himself a success in business. This has led to a succession of unwanted expansion proposals that has created further tension in Mel’s life as she is content in her very safe and very stable, life.
Pageant stage moms and the mini-me’s are enough have Mel regretting her involvement in the pageant, but Mariel Mars is the topper. A has-been former contestant who hopes that her position as judge will give her nail polish business a boost, Mariel proves that beauty is only skin deep; her rudeness and score-fixings set the timer on her ultimate murder. Unfortunately, Lupe was last heard threatening her, and with the contestants more than willing to throw the non-blonde, unprivileged girl under the bus, it is once again up to Mel, Angie, Tate and Joe to find a killer ironic enough to strangle using a pageant sash as a weapon.
I’m not sure what cupcakes really have to do with beauty pageants, since 1) contestants will not be going near carbs before the swimsuit competition, and 2) what does making a cupcake recipe have to do with a beauty competition? Ultimately, though, I didn’t care. The characters are delightful as they encounter the more unique aspects of pageantry that make them so compelling.
With a love of movie quotes, luscious descriptions of cupcakes, delicious recipes, a surprising culprit, and a doozy twist of an ending, this sixth in the series will never be accused of becoming stale.
Sweet Tea Revenge by Laura Childs
Review by Sandra Murphy
Theodosia Browning’s friend, Delaine Dish, is finally getting her heart’s desire. She’s getting married. Theo is not so sure it’s the groom that Delaine wants but more the wedding and the attention a new bride receives. To be frank, the groom has money too, not that there’s anything wrong with that.
It’s a rush job and of course, Theo is roped into volunteering, often with little thanks, for all kinds of wedding jobs. First, Theo is a bridesmaid and catering the big event. The venue is not exactly top flight, but when finding a place at the last minute, Delaine can’t be too picky. Theo wonders if Delaine is afraid the groom will change his mind, given time.
On the big day, it’s one thing after another, as a rare and huge storm brews over Charleston. The power’s gone out twice so the room for the wedding is now candlelit. Delaine’s sister–they don’t get along so well because, well, she’s a piece of work, as though Delaine has any room to talk–is late, as are the flowers. To top it all off, when Delaine’s sister rushes in, she’s still carrying an open umbrella–everybody knows it’s bad luck to do that inside the house!
Finally, everything is in place except the groom. Theo gets the unwelcome task of getting him to the altar to say I do. Finding him wasn’t too much of a problem. Getting him to the altar and able to say anything is impossible because he’s gone from groom to corpse in a matter of minutes, thanks to a heavy paperweight and a little help from a snort of cocaine.
If you’ve read any of the Indigo Tea Shop mysteries, you’ll not be surprised to hear that Delaine took the news badly. Theo tried to keep the scene of the crime secure, but it wasn’t to be. Delaine rushed the room, threw herself on the body and contaminated everything with her tears, makeup and what-all. It was all chronicled by the nosy reporter who took pictures from the hallway. A grieving, not-quite-widow is news.
Detective Tidwell is back and not quite as cranky as usual. He’s always a great addition to the story. Suspects are plentiful as Dougan Granville was involved in a lot of shady business ventures. There was the cigar store–were those really embargoed Cubans? The cocaine found at the scene. As an attorney, he’s bound to have enemies. Who will inherit? Delaine and Dougan have wills that benefit each other, but will that still be in force since the vows were never spoken? Theodosia is not going to be able to get anything done until the killer is found–Delaine will see to that. It’s just not going to be an easy job.
The hardback version of this book was released last year, the fourteenth in the series. The previous book, Agony of the Leaves was reviewed for KRL. Childs also writes the scrapbooking mysteries. See the review in KRL for Postcards from the Dead. If that’s not enough, she also writes the Cackleberry Club mysteries. Eggs in a Casket was also reviewed for KRL.
As usual, the back of the book offers as many treats as the story itself. There are of course, recipes: Killer Sweet Tea, Peach Scones, Devonshire Cream, Tea-Simmered Chicken, Tomato Cream Cheese Tea Sandwiches, Scottish Shortbread, Cock-a-Leekie Soup, Brie and Pear Crostini, Peanut Butter Scones, Summer Tea Sparkler, Cinnamon Raisin Biscuits, and Espresso Bars. You’ll find half a dozen tea party plans from a retro tea party to a moss garden tea. Tea resources include publications, a list of tea plantations, websites and blogs, tea sellers, and what to see and do while in Charleston. An added bonus is an excerpt from the next book in the series, Steeped in Evil.
To enter to win a copy of all 3 food mysteries, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “food,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen April 19, 2014. U.S. residents only.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.
Click on this link to purchase any of these books & a portion goes to help support KRL!