by Cynthia Chow
& Sandra Murphy
This week we have a fun group of food mysteries from Penguin authors-Town in a Maple Madness: A Candy Holliday Mystery by B. B. Haywood, A Frying Shame: A Deep Fried Mystery by Linda Reilly, and Silence of the Jams: A Down South Café Mystery by Gayle Leeson. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 3 books, along with links you can use to purchase them.
Town in a Maple Madness: A Candy Holliday Mystery by B. B. Haywood
Review by Sandra Murphy
It’s the First Annual Maple Madness Weekend that’s bound to bring a lot of tourists to town to buy homemade, real maple syrup. They’ll eat at the local restaurants and enjoy chocolate maple brownies from the Black Forest Bakery, maple banana bread, maple drop cookies or maple glazed carrots. You name it, somebody will come up with a way to pair maple syrup with it.
There’s also the dedication and grand opening of the community center. Unfortunately, that’s spoiled by the discovery of a body, pulled from the river, wrapped in a fisherman’s net, hands and feet bound, and stabbed. Somebody sure wanted this guy dead.
It’s local landscaper Mike Rilke. He’s a gruff guy, but fair, so why would anyone want him dead? The question of where he entered the river is a problem too. The dedication is delayed, but Maple Madness must go on.
Candy Holliday is a part-time reporter for the local paper, full time farmer, and occasional investigator, not always against her will, but more because she has to know what happened. Hugh and Ginny have proof someone is tapping their maple trees which means money out of their pockets. Neil, a neighbor, is the prime suspect according to them, although Candy knows it can’t be true.
Things go from bad to worse when she discovers Neil is missing, Mike’s murder is still unsolved and his widow wants Candy to figure out what happened. Wanda is now the editor of the paper and she insists Candy help out and then write about it to scoop any other news media. Wanda can be very persuasive which most people would refer to as pushy.
In addition to her own work, Candy ends up pet sitting for Neil’s dog, helping at the bakery, asking about Mike’s personal life, and trying to find out who’s stealing sap.
It’s a convoluted mystery, but with the help of Neil’s dog, Random, she’s able to solve all the puzzles and still find time to eat some of those chocolate maple brownies.
In each book, as in real life, circumstances change and the people adapt. Candy has a big change coming —can’t wait for the next episode.
This is the eighth book in the Candy Holliday Mystery series with the previous titles including blueberries, lobster, moose, pumpkin, strawberry, sweet pickle, and cinnamon. Maple goodies mentioned above sound good? The recipes are at the back of the book.
A Frying Shame: A Deep Fried Mystery by Linda Reilly
Review by Sandra Murphy
Steeltop Foods has come to Wrensdale for a cook off contest. Talia Marby entered her deep fried mini apple pies. At her restaurant, everything is deep fried except maybe the coleslaw. Her friend Crystal entered, too, and will make her home-style meatloaf.
The other contestants are Norma with a flaky topped chicken stew, Harry with a tamale casserole, Dylan with cinnamon-swirl brownies, and Vivian with her spiced ginger cookies. Everyone’s nervous, but things are going well until Wes, head of Steeltop Foods, introduces Norma. Instead of enjoying himself as before, Wes’ attitude goes flat. Norma looks almost afraid. He quickly announces the other contestants and the cooking begins. It’s a shock to everyone when Norma wins the $25,000 cash prize.
Unfortunately, her good luck is at an end. A teenager finds her body at her cook station. Norma had been a cook at the local school and was universally hated by the students. Always taking delight in the misfortune of others and spreading gossip or turmoil, she wasn’t popular with adults either. The suspect list is long.
When the murder weapon is found, it has Crystal’s fingerprints on it. The police think Crystal needed the money so badly, she conked Norma on the head in hopes of her second place status would move up to number one. Too bad it only moves her to jail.
Audrey, Crystal’s partner in a kitchen shop, is acting weird, too. She snaps at everyone, is fighting with her daughter ,and it’s worse with Crystal. Audrey wanted no part of the cooking contest, and let’s everyone know it. Lucas, who works for Talia at the fry shop, was injured right after the murder. Talia’s pretty sure Lucas saw the murderer, but he’s reported to be in critical condition and no one knows if he’ll recover or remember.
As if that wasn’t enough, Talia’s love life is in question. Ryan is usually very attentive but he’s off for a big business meeting and is, for the first time, very inattentive. Talia worries that he’s rethinking their relationship.
The characters are progressing well, each becoming more defined as the series goes on. Talia’s descriptions of her deep fried food will leave readers drooling and hungry. With a bit of a cliff hanger ending, they’ll want to hear more about Wrensdale, Talia and her Fry Me a Sliver restaurant.
This is the third in the Deep Fried Mystery series. Talia manages to figure out a way to deep fry most anything. She’s even considering deep fried muffins! At the back of the book find recipes for deep fried mac and cheese squares and the mini apple pies.
Silence of the Jams: A Down South Café Mystery by Gayle Leeson
Review by Cynthia Chow
An inheritance from her grandmother allowed Amy Flowers to fulfill her dream of owning a café in her tiny, rural hometown of Winter Garden, Virginia. She and her cousin had been busy canning a batch of fresh strawberries for the Independence Day Festival when a visit from the director of the Chamber of Commerce goes even less well than usual. George Lincoln had never been shy about his hopes of buying the café and converting it into a bed-and-breakfast, nor had he ceased in his dire predictions of the Down South Café’s future. What he didn’t predict was that he would collapse in the middle of his breakfast, or that speculation would begin that it wasn’t by natural causes.
The probability of Mr. Lincoln’s death being the result of murder increases when it’s revealed that he had secret files on most of the town—information that often used to make things go his way. Amy is worried that yet another death in her café could end its future before it’s barely begun, so she intends to do what she can to find the person responsible. With four suspects on the list, tracking them down shouldn’t be too hard, especially when she comes bearing tasty gifts. Amy’s cousin and waitress Jackie is normally an all-too-willing participant in their adventures, but she is diverted by the return of the mother who essentially abandoned her as a child. Aunt Bess may always optimistically forgive her daughter Renee upon her infrequent returns, but when Renee absconds with her mother the rest of the family is less understanding. Amy becomes so distracted by her family’s turmoil that a kitchen mishap results in stitches, forcing her to rely on the many mother hens willing to hover and keep her well-fed. It has the one benefit of finally giving Amy a little downtime with the every-busy Deputy Ryan Hall, who is inching closer to taking on a more-than-just-friends role.
This second in the Down South Café Mystery series has everything a cozy-reading fan looks for a novel—a strong, likable heroine, adorably spunky senior relatives, brave canine protector, humorous dialogue, and vast amounts of delicious-sounding meals. The author of numerous books under the names Amanda Lee and Gayle Trent, Leeson adds the additional resonant and moving element of Renee’s struggle to return to her family. This more serious topic is seamlessly woven into the rest of the lighter mystery, which has Amy capably and believably tracking down clues to the murderer. The steady pace of the writing will keep readers entertained until its startling conclusion, with the final reward being recipes guaranteed to have them heading towards the kitchen.
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 “april food,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen April 29, 2017. 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 the Amazon link:
Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.