by Sandra Murphy
& Cynthia Chow
This week we have another group of food mysteries for your mystery dining pleasure-Death by Chocolate Snickerdoodle: A Death by Chocolate Mystery by Sarah Graves, Haunted Hibiscus: A Teashop Mystery by Laura Childs, Into the Sweet Hereafter: A Vintage Sweets Mystery by Kaye George, Long Island Iced Tina: A Catering Hall Mystery by Maria DiRico (aka Ellen Byron), and Murder at the Taffy Shop: A Cozy Capers Book Group Mystery by Maddie Day. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 5 books and links to purchase them at the end of each review–you may not be able to see the Amazon links if you have ad blocker on.
Death by Chocolate Snickerdoodle: A Death by Chocolate Mystery by Sarah Graves
Review by Sandra Murphy
Jake and Ellie first met when Jake and her teenage son, Sam, moved to Maine and impulsively bought a fixer-upper. Jake taught herself to do repairs, and with Ellie’s help, the house looks like a house instead of a soon-to-be pile of rubble. Now they’ve embarked on a new venture—The Chocolate Moose, a bakery, featuring all things chocolate and/or tasty. The annual cookie contest is coming up, and they don’t have time to deal with it. However, Sam is grown now, has a wife, Mika, and two kids, and Mika needs to clear the fog of Mommy Brain and get back to work—if she remembers how. A new cookie recipe should be just the challenge for her.
The local curmudgeon is found with an ax in his head, fatal, of course. Sam’s business partner, Billy, is a prime suspect. He was on the scene, covered in blood, moved the body—could he look any guiltier? Jake and Ellie have been involved in murder investigations before so they set out to prove Billy is innocent.
With a suspects list longer than the bakery’s supplies order, the pair starts to eliminate the innocent. Before they can make a lot of headway, wildfires on the island are coming from every direction. With a little breaking and entering, general snooping, and a lot of luck, the two are certain they can get Billy out of this jam.
Jake and Ellie are quite the pair, brave and willing to take risks for those they love. Between the bakery, home life, investigating, and the cookie contest, they get more done before breakfast than some people do in a week. They’re also willing to explain how some of their goodies are made.
This is book four in the series, all reviewed here. Graves also writes the Home Repair is Homicide mysteries, sixteen in all, featuring the same characters, Jake and Ellie and their assorted families and friends. At the back of the book, find the recipe for Old Fashioned Chocolate Sauce.
Haunted Hibiscus: A Teashop Mystery by Laura Childs
Review by Sandra Murphy
It’s a week before Halloween in Charleston. Theodosia, Drayton, and Haley are hosting special tea parties in honor of the season. They do take time to visit the haunted mansion owned by the Historical Society. It’s been partially restored and is fittingly spooky. Employees of the Society are dressed as monsters like Frankenstein or favorite authors like Poe, adding to the atmosphere. Timothy Neville is president of the Society and his grandniece, Willow, is signing copies of her book, Carolina Crimes and Creepers. He’s not crazy about the fund-raising idea, but donations have been much lower and renovating the house was expensive.
Things are going well when Theodosia notices Willow isn’t at the signing table. As Theo and Drayton leave, there’s a commotion and Willow’s hanging body is thrown out the third floor window. Theo’s boyfriend, Pete Riley, is a police detective. He leaves the scene to secure Willow’s apartment and no more than steps inside the door when he’s shot and the shooter escapes.
Normally there would be a long list of suspects, but Willow didn’t seem to have enemies, was a guest at the event, and was due to be married in a few weeks. Timothy asks Theo to see what she can find out and report back. Because Timothy and Drayton are friends and Riley was shot, Theodosia is more than willing to track down the person responsible. Willow had a few secrets but the people around her had more. As Theo asks questions, she finds at least three who had a motive to kill. The question is, will the killer strike again?
This is book thirteen in the popular series. Theodosia is busier than ever with the day to day operation of the tea shop, special events, catering, stocking tea products like lotions and candles, making time to see her boyfriend, and making sure her dog, Earl Gray, gets plenty of exercise. It may be a bit early to read about Halloween, but it’s never the wrong time to read about the delicious food Haley makes or new teas Drayton is urging customers to try.
Recipes include pumpkin soup, tarragon chicken salad, chai flavored cupcakes, crab and avocado tea sandwiches, Southern peach crisp, ham and corn muffins, herbed chèvre butter, haunted hibiscus cooler, Charleston apple pudding, best banana bread ever, and pork tenderloin.
Childs also includes ideas for hosting a French cottage tea, Agatha Christie tea, pretty in pink tea, crystal tea, under the Tuscan sun tea, and a family reunion tea. Find links to tea magazines and publications, the locations and web addresses for US tea plantations, interesting tea websites and blogs addresses, a list of purveyors of fine teas, and a list of where to go and what to see in Charleston—because after reading the book, you’ll surely want to visit.
Into the Sweet Hereafter: A Vintage Sweets Mystery by Kaye George
Review by Sandra Murphy
Tally Holt’s handmade vintage candy shop is practically next door to her best friend’s gift basket store. Cross promotion is a no-brainer. Yolanda designs a basket for the window display, using replica candies. They are supposed to be eco-friendly but seem to be melting in the hot Texas sun, faster than the real candies would to.
There have been a number of robberies around town, some storefronts, some homes. So far, small items have been taken but it’s unnerving. When Yolanda’s store window is broken and the only missing item is the replica candies, neither of them can figure out why someone would risk jail time for candy they can’t even eat.
In the meantime, two strangers are in town, befriending or threatening Tally’s landlady. Things seem to be okay but the unexplained bruises say otherwise. A neighborhood watch program acts more suspiciously than would be thieves. Tally’s puzzled as to why they won’t accept new members and want to meet in secret.
Tally’s brother is back, maybe interested in a former but short term girlfriend. Her parents are traveling with their song and dance routines but running into all kinds of complications while bouncing from continent to continent. Yolanda’s sister is getting married but has been disowned by her parents so that’s not going smoothly. At least Tally’s employees are staying calm, mostly.
For a sweet tale about vintage sweets, a huge Maine Coon cat, and a few robberies and a murder or two, this is where to start. Find a recipe for Clark bars at the back of the book.
Long Island Iced Tina: A Catering Hall Mystery by Maria DiRico (aka Ellen Byron)
Review by Sandra Murphy
Mia’s best friend Nicole is expecting. Of course, the Belle View Catering Hall is the perfect place for a baby shower. Despite feuding mom/stepmom problems, especially stepmom determined to outshine mom, the shower should be a happy success. Well, except for the mom/stepmom loud argument in the bathroom—in front of witnesses. And then Grandma got in on it. Things went downhill from there.
The last gift opened was a painting of a woman riding a cow. It turns out the painting is famous, had been stolen years before, and it’s valuable. Tina is especially shocked to see it. One guest in particular is willing to run her mouth about the original heist. Oddly, neither side of the family knows her.
When Mia arrives at work the next day, there’s a lump of red fabric floating in the water beside the catering hall. Another dead body, one that won’t be mourned by many. With so many people happy to hear about the death, will the police be able to sort it out? Not without the help of Mia. After all, her Family is under suspicion, too. Yes, capital F as in Mob Family. The Belle View is legit, and Mia intends for it to stay that way.
Mia is a delight, surely someone you’d want for a best friend. Her wannabe relationship with Jamie is resolved, the new hire (a favor to one of the Families) is a disaster—is he a hopeless mess or a saboteur? For a fun time (except for the bodies), good food (even when the food orders are wrong), and a big dose of Noo Yawk (can’t you just hear the accent?), this is the perfect read.
This is book two of three. Here Comes the Body was reviewed here. It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Murder, available for pre-order now, will be out in October. Ellen Byron also writes the Cajun Country mysteries, seven in all, reviewed here.
At the back of the book, find recipes for Easiest Lasagna Ever, Potato and Beet Salad (Mia was surprised at how good it is), Honey Phyllo Rollups, and Cannoli Cake, plus a tip for fun party favors.
Murder at the Taffy Shop: A Cozy Capers Book Group Mystery by Maddie Day
Review by Cynthia Chow
In the year and a half since Mackenzie Almeida left her high finance job in Boston to return to the Cape Cod town of Westham, her life has only changed for the better. Her bicycle repair, rental, and retail shop Mac’s Bikes is continually busy meeting the demands of locals and tourists, while baker Tim Brunelle is proving to be the most attentive and attractive boyfriend ever. Not even cranky neighbor Beverly Ruchart’s complaints about the roving puppy recently adopted by Mac’s niece can dampen the mood…at least, not until the wealthy genealogist is murdered.
Beverly had recently hosted a dinner attended by her family members as well as Mac’s best friend Gin Malloy, who is currently dating Beverly former son-in-law. Although Gin recalls that that the dinner party was rife with strange undercurrents and tension, it is the candy from Gin’s Salty Taffy Shop that police believe may have poisoned Beverly. With one of their members in jeopardy, librarian Flo insists that the Cozy Capers Book Group use their knowledge of mysteries to prove Gin’s innocence while tracking down a murderer. Mac is one of the few hoping to stay on the more cautious side, especially since her relationship with the police is already a little rocky. Police Chief Victoria Laitinen wants nothing more than to throw Mac or one of her friends in jail, having never gotten over their teen rivalry or unjustly blaming Mac for the death of her brother. Despite the best intentions to do research from the safety of their homes online, it’s not long before Mac and her friends are questioning Beverly’s surly relatives and genealogy clients, all of whom were threatened by the possible discovery of competing heirs.
This second in the series by the prolific author who also writes under the Edith Maxwell name expands upon the life and crossroads Mac faces in her life. Living in a tiny house has only compounded Mac’s need for order and organization in her world, escalating her OCD tendencies. Even more terrifying than a roving murderer is pressure from Tim to make a commitment and start a family, with Mac’s slightly older age forcing a ticking time clock on the decision. As much as Mac loves Tim and her niece, adding their own children into the mix would definitely disrupt Mac’s very tidy life. So it’s no wonder that she finds distraction with a murder investigation, not to mention juggling duties at the shop and meetings with her Cozy Book Group. Mac’s amazing astrologist mother and Unitarian Universalist Church minister father offer wise advice and sympathetic counsel, both for her life and for the case. Those looking for food and humor in their reads will revel in the book group’s meetings that include treats prepared from the selected reads’ recipes, although the real delight is Mac’s African gray parrot Belle. Gifted with a talent for mimicry and a mastery of Alexa shopping, Belle’s quirky repetitiveness may ultimately help save the day. Readers will be anxious to know the next steps Mac takes in her life, especially if it means spending more time on the unique, seafood-filled town of Cape Cod.
To enter to win a copy of all 5 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 May 1, 2021. 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 MAY TAKE MUCH LONGER THAN USUAL FOR WINNERS TO GET THEIR BOOKS DUE TO THE CURRENT CRISIS.
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