by Sandra Murphy
& Cynthia Chow
This week we have some more fun food mysteries perfect for Easter reading-Broken Bone China: A Tea Shop Mystery by Laura Childs, Leave No Scone Unturned: A Chef-To-Go Mystery by Denise Swanson, Murder Lo Mein: A Noodle Shop Mystery by Vivien Chien, and One Feta in the Grave: A Kitchen Kebab Mystery by Tina Kashian. 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.
Broken Bone China: A Tea Shop Mystery by Laura Childs
Review by Sandra Murphy
Theodosia, Drayton, and Haley, the trio behind the success of the Indigo Tea Shop in Charleston, are back. Theo talked Drayton into a hot air balloon ride. What could be more fun than to be in one of six colorful balloons, drifting over the landscape—and, of course, it’s safe! Unless a drone targets the balloon next to yours causing it to crash and burn, killing three people.
Since the remnants landed on the table where they’d served tea and treats a short while ago, Theo and Drayton have a vested interest in finding out what really happened. Was the drone a rogue or a deliberate murder? Don Kingsley was the likely target. He’s the CEO of SyncSoft, a local software company, owner of a priceless Revolutionary war British flag and soon to be divorced from a wife who loves to spend his money.
The flag is missing, a whistle-blower at SyncSoft found a problem with software set to release and light up the market, while the widow is more interested in furnishing her B&B to look like a palace instead of sorry he’s dead.
Being a witness to the murder is a bit different for Theo. In the past, she’s been on hand when someone died but never so up close as in the balloon.
This time Detective Tidwell is the one who is in the right place at the wrong time. He owes his rescue to Theo which has got to irritate him. Twists and turns, misdirection and red herrings, all lead to a satisfying ending with the culprit behind bars.
This is book twenty in the popular series. Theo has a love interest, Drayton is a bit more relaxed, Haley, as always, turns out lunches, sweet treats, and other tasty goods without batting an eye. Readers will appreciate that she’s willing to share recipes from the Indigo Tea Shop: Walnut and Cream Cheese Tea Sandwiches, Super Easy Lemon Cake Mix Scones with Cinnamon Vanilla Honey Butter, Eggnog Scones, Cheddar and Pimento Tea Sandwiches, Angel Hair Pasta with Lemon and Herbs, Super Easy Banana Pudding Pie, Grilled Cheese with Apples and Arugula, and Haley’s Scone Sliders (savory scones, thin-sliced ham, Muenster cheese, honey mustard), Featherbed House Stuffed Mushrooms, Strawberry Butter, Detective Riley’s Sea Scallops with Brown Butter.
Childs is equally generous with Tea TimeTips From Laura Childs how to create seven themed teas: Gilded Age Tea, Sip and See Tea, Father’s Tea, Kentucky Derby Tea, Nancy Drew Tea, Honey Bee Tea, and Parisian Tea. The Nancy Drew tea will be a reader favorite. She also includes Tea Resources for the once-in-awhile to passionate tea drinkers. Look for Lavender Blue Murder, the next tea shop mystery.
An excerpt of the forthcoming Mumbo Gumbo Murder, book number sixteen in the New Orleans based Scrapbooking Mysteries penned with Terrie Farley Moran (available for pre-order, out October 1), is included in the back of this book. In the Cackleberry series (8), Battered Eggs is next up. Under the name Gerry Schmitt, she has two thrillers, Little Girl Gone and Shadow Girl, both fast-paced page-turners, reviewed here. If Childs is a new author for you, you’ve got a lot of good reading ahead.
Leave No Scone Unturned: A Chef-To-Go Mystery by Denise Swanson
Review by Sandra Murphy
Recently, Dani inherited what was going to be a B&B. She wasn’t up for that but with her love for cooking, found her niche. She makes lunches-to-go for college students and acts as a private chef for more established clients. She also rents rooms to three college girls who act as her assistants as part of the rent.
Orientation week is always a madhouse. New arrivals, accompanied by parents, have no idea where they’re going, causing traffic jams. Ivy, one of Dani’s assistants, is late for her shift, not a usual problem. Dani finds her talking to one of the homeless people who lives in a community—not upscale enough to even be called a tent city. Ivy is his contact for picking up leftover food for the others in his group. He calls himself Deuce, and he’s jumpier than usual. It seems he’s worried about zombies. It does help to explain things when Dani finds out one of the fraternities has planned a fundraiser zombie run.
Residents have taken the “not in my backyard” attitude toward the homeless people. When carjackings start to occur on a regular basis and a monster is seen in the canal, things really get hectic.
In the meantime, Dani has her hands full, promoting her business. Spencer, Ivy’s uncle, is head of campus security. He’s been on Dani’s radar since a recent murder, and she finds herself thinking about him often but he hasn’t called or come by. That changes when a body is found.
It’s nice to have Spencer back in the picture, but Dani’s also flattered at the attentions of Gray, a police detective. That can wait—first, they have to find out who the body was.
This is the second in the series. Dani is finding her way by doing what she wants to do, as opposed to what she thinks she should do. While no recipes are given, there’s enough information about what she’s doing as she cooks to catch the gist of what goes into the dish.
It will be interesting to see further interactions between Spencer and Gray as they each vie for Dani’s attention. Spencer is the strong silent type while smooth talk just rolls off Gray’s tongue. While not strictly a crossover, two characters from the Scumble River series are included in this series as well.
Swanson also writes the Devereaux’s Dime Store Mysteries, the Change of Heart romances, and the Delicious romances.
Murder Lo Mein: A Noodle Shop Mystery by Vivien Chien
Review by Cynthia Chow
Despite the sign over the restaurant proclaiming it to be the #1 Noodle Shop, Asia Village’s Ho-Lee Noodle House has never won the top spot in Cleveland’s Best Noodles contest. Since the competition’s inception five years ago, they’ve come close but never succeeded in besting their rival the House of Shen. Last year’s contest ended in controversy and accusations of cheating, but without proof the previous champion is now on the judging panel along with a viperous restaurant critic and Cleveland-made-good respected chef. Now that she has been made the new manager of her family’s restaurant, Lana Lee feels the pressure to save face and bring home a win for the Ho-Lee Noodle House. Things look to be off to a promising start when her chef Peter Huang wins the first round of the competition, but events take a downturn when judge Normal Pan is found strangled to death during the kickoff celebration in Penny Cho’s Bamboo Lounge karaoke bar. Although Penny quickly becomes the primary suspect, Lana’s protective instincts kick in and she takes action to uphold Asia Village’s reputation.
Even though Lana and her maybe-sorta boyfriend Adam Trudeau have only sporadically been able to arrange their schedules and actually complete a date, the detective does not appreciate seeing her in the midst of his active investigation. That still doesn’t stop Lana, as ensuring that the noodle completion continues and the Ho-Lee Noodle House comes out on top is almost as important as tracking down a killer. Not only did Norman Pan destroy careers with his restaurant judging and reviews, his face-to-face interactions proved to be just as combative. Further casting a shadow over the event are menacing fortune cookies containing the wisdom of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, hinting that someone is following a ruthless strategy to take out enemies and possibly bring down Asia Village.
This continues to be one of my favorite mystery series featuring an extraordinary community and engaging heroine. In this third installment, Asian American Lana is confronted by her childhood nemesis who continues to degrade her as only being half-Chinese and not a “real Asian.” It highlights an identity crisis Lana struggled against her entire life, and is brought to light again as her grandmother visits and the language barrier has them relying on an app – and mutual love – for communication. Not fluent in either Mandarin or her family’s Hokkien Taiwanese dialect, Lana does feel the barbs thrown by the Mean Girl of their rival restaurant.
Lana’s vulnerabilities and relatability will have readers cheering for her throughout the novel, as will a twist that emphasizes the value of books and reading. The interactions between Lana and her mother are genuinely entertaining, especially when “Mommy” is exasperated with and exhausted by her own visiting mother. The additional complication of three attractive men all intrigued by Lana is yet another element spicing up this well-paced mystery, as is her adorable pug Kikkoman. Humor, the lovingly affectionate Lee family, and of course, the delicious delicacies of the Ho-Lee Noodle House will have readers clamoring for another course of this unique mystery series.
One Feta in the Grave: A Kitchen Kebab Mystery by Tina Kashian
Review by Cynthia Chow
It’s the opening day of Ocean Crests, New Jersey’s beach festival, and Lucy Berbian is helping to judge what quickly becomes a surprisingly combative sand sculpture contest. Longtime store neighbors and rivals Harold Harper and Archie Kincaid are openly battling on the boardwalk, this time over Harold’s assertion that Archie is a biased judge due to his being an uncle to a contestant. Lucy’s friend Katie Watson is forced to agree, causing a furious Archie to then turn his wrath upon the young attorney. Lucy has her own hands busy organizing the town’s food and wine tasting event, a duty that should be perfect for her now that she has returned home to help in her family’s Kebab Kitchen Mediterranean restaurant. Lucy may not be the whiz the rest of her family is in the kitchen, but her waitressing skills and dedication to learning the nuances of Armenian cuisine are stellar. Lucy will need to add in some investigation skills as well, since she has the unfortunate privilege of discovering Archie’s body shot dead under the boardwalk.
Ocean Crest has always operated on a gossip-fueled currency, and Katie’s very public battle on the beach and a later one regarding a mercantile license make her as the primary culprit in the eyes of the town. Katie might be willing to let justice run its course – even though her own police officer husband is taken off of the case – Lucy’s not about to risk seeing her friend railroaded into prison. Archie not only left an aimless, chronically unemployed nephew as an heir, the gift store owner’s involvement in local politics gained him his share of enemies. When Katie’s husband gives the okay to do a little discreet observing and reporting, Lucy and her friend begin a surveillance of their neighbors that uncovers the many secrets lurking within the sunny seaside town.
As fun as the investigation into the disagreeable Archie’s life may be, what truly stands out are the exquisite descriptions of mouth-watering Mediterranean cuisine. Not only are readers treated to the lessons given to Lucy by her mother on the laborious preparation of baklava, Lucy’s long-awaited date with Chef Azad Zakarian is a multiple-course meal sure to inspire envy. He is a far more mature man than the one he was when he broke her heart after college, but he faces competition from the bicycle-store-owning, Harley-riding, Michael Citteroni.
There are enough twists and swerves to make solving the mystery a challenge, but it is truly the celebration of food, bonds of friendship, and anticipated romances that make this a novel to savor. Top it off with some delicious-making recipes: Lucy’s Date Stuffed Cookies, Azad’s Lentil Soup, Butch’s Greek Salad with Feta Cheese.
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 food,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen April 27, 2019. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address (so if you win we can get the book sent right out to you), and if via comment please include your email address. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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