by Cynthia Chow
& Sandra Murphy
This week we have a bunch of food mysteries for your Father’s Day Feast! A Deadly Inside Scoop: An Ice Cream Parlor Mystery by Abby Collette, Pumpkin Spice Peril: A Cupcake Bakery Mystery by Jenn McKinlay, The Diva Spices it Up: A Domestic Diva Mystery by Krista Davis, Sugar and Vice: A Cookie House Mystery by Eve Calder, Killer Chardonnay: A Colorado Wine Mystery by Kate Lansing, and Murder with Clotted Cream: Daisy’s Tea Garden Mystery by Karen Rose Smith. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 6 books (signed copies of A Deadly Inside Scoop & Pumpkin Spice Peril), 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.
A Deadly Inside Scoop: An Ice Cream Parlor Mystery by Abby Collette
Review by Cynthia Chow
It took a health scare for Bronwyn “Win” Crewse to realize that a marketing degree and MBA were not her true dreams. No, her purpose in life involved moving back home to Chagrin Falls, Cleveland, to take over the family’s ice cream shop, after her Aunt Jackie left to pursue online love in North Carolina. Once Win’s grandfather handed over the keys and her adored Grandma Kay’s priceless recipe box, Win began lovingly crafting Crewse Creamery’s original handmade ice cream creations. It hasn’t been a smooth start, though, with delays pushing her April launch to October and barely a customer in sight when the doors finally open. One potential customer who reminisces of Crewse Creamery nostalgia is the lost-puppy-bearing Stephen Bayard, a man whose name infuriates Win’s PopPop and who seems to bear the animosity of the entire Crewse family. So it’s unfortunate that when seeking “fresh” snow for Grandma Kay’s Snow Ice Cream recipe Win finds a body at the bottom of the town’s fall. Not only was Stephen Bayard poisoned to death, but it was from a substance easily sourced from the hospital where Win’s orthopedic surgeon father works.
While Win’s best friends Maisie Solomon and Riya Amacarelli were only to be temporary assistants in the creamery until her rookie employees arrived, the women are more than ready to step in as investigative sidekicks as well. Riya’s anger management makes her a liability as often as not, but just as much an obstacle is Maisie’s unwavering belief that the murderer is her boss at Molta’s restaurant. Maisie bases this not so much on evidence, but through huge jumps to conclusions and something related to Peter Sellers. Detective Liam Beverly follows an actual trial of evidence right to Win’s dad, which has her determined to discover who else in town Stephen Bayard managed to infuriate through his swindles and greedy machinations. A law school professor new in town, Morrison “O” Kaye, seems more than willing to give Win free legal advice but she finds him a little too attentive and, well, perfect. Instead, Win allows Maisie and Riya to lead her into confrontations with possible drug dealers while snooping, googling, and stalking suspects.
This debut series bursts out onto the scene with a relatable and extremely likable new heroine devoted to protecting those she loves. She and her mother are the only members of their family without a “Dr.” in front of their names, and Win’s three brothers are just as bossy as they are protective over their little sister. Basically representing the entire African-American population in Chagrin Falls, the Crewse family have a unique perspective of the town while also being an established part of it. Win’s aunt may have made Crewse Creamery more of a novelty shop than an ice cream store, but Win is intent on making her homemade treats a sustainable business even during the months when they’re buried in snow. Recipes that include Grandma Kay’s Caramel Corn Ice Cream will have readers tempted into making their own ventures into frozen confectionaries, but the real draw here are the charismatic characters and their adventures. Win’s family and friends are an absolute joy to meet, and this debut promises the start of an exciting new mystery series.
Pumpkin Spice Peril: A Cupcake Bakery Mystery by Jenn McKinlay
Review by Cynthia Chow
The co-owner of Fairy Tale Cupcakes in Old Town Scottsdale, Melanie Cooper has always looked up to Peter Klein and Rene Fischer-Klein as being the perfect couple. Every week artist Peter comes to the bakery to pick up his wife’s favorite cupcake flavor, and they genuinely adore and respect each other’s talents. So that’s why it’s all the more upsetting when glass sculptor Rene uncharacteristically explodes at Mel, accusing her of trying to seduce Peter away with cupcakes. Mel had only come to Desert Winds Gallery to make catering plans for their upcoming gallery exhibition, but Rene’s paranoia and mood swings have Mel and Peter concerned for the artist’s health. Rene’s threats against another artist make her a possible culprit when the body of a woman is found in the gallery, but shockingly it is Rene who is the victim.
For once Mel wasn’t the one to have had the misfortune to have found the corpse, but that doesn’t make Police Chief Lori Rosen any less suspicious. In fact, due in no small part to jealousy over Mel’s fiancé Joe DeLaura, Rosen orders an independent investigation into Mel’s involvement in previous cases and whether she may have in fact been the villain. The dangers of being an inadvertent amateur detective come back to haunt Mel, but that doesn’t mean she’s about to stop investigating the gallery and its artists if it means helping Peter and finding out the fate of her good friend. Rival artists, competing gallery owners, battling agents, and old fashioned jealousy all become motives for the death of the talented sculptor.
This twelfth in the series continues to follow the adventures of beloved characters who are facing, in Mel’s words, next level adulting. Her best friend and bakery partner Angie Harper is in the throes of “pregger rage,” a little disturbing to her loved ones but a delight for readers as her many brothers rival to be named favorite uncle. Mel worries that this will only encourage her own mother’s demands for grandmotherhood, even though Mel and Joe are still in the planning phase for their own wedding and upcoming marriage. Changing seasons and the new stages in life are the themes here as bakery assistants move on, marriages evolve, and families grow. New cupcake flavors and, of course, included recipes will tantalize fans of this delicious, cupcake-celebrating series, and mystery fans will be drawn into the surprising, twisted conclusion. This is a series that has never slowed down and continues to delight fans who return to spend time with their favorite characters and fictional family.
The Diva Spices it Up: A Domestic Diva Mystery by Krista Davis
Review by Cynthia Chow
When Domestic Diva Sophie Winston spots a suitcase floating in the Potomac, she immediately assumes the worse. After all, she’s no stranger to murder and mayhem, having encountered killers over a dozen times. After being laughed at by the 911 operator, though, Sophie puts it to the side as she has to deal with a more immediate complication. Her ex-husband Mars has offered up Sophie’s services as a cookbook ghostwriter to Tilly Stratford, a former teen television star and current wife of Congressman Wesley Winthrop. It seems that Tilly’s former cookbook author ghosted her, and after being charmed by the insecure and vulnerable celebrity, Sophie finds herself with only three weeks to create a cookbook from Tilly’s unwritten family recipes.
As Sophie test-cooks recipes and attempts to decipher strange abbreviations, she is led down the trail of the writer’s disappearance. Not only had Abby Bergeron been dating Mars, her disappearance coincides with the body Sophie and her friend Nina Red Norwood find in Abby’s large freezer. While Sophie’s police investigator ex-boyfriend warns her away from the investigation, pleas from both Mars and her eternal nemesis/frenemy prevent that. Rival (in her mind, anyway) TV host Natasha Smith had recently discovered a half-sister due to a DNA family search, but Charlene Smith was brutally beaten into unconsciousness before they could meet. Unable to believe that all of the recent criminal activities could be unrelated, Sophie and Nina begin tracking the paths of the various missing women and those who would want them out of the picture…permanently.
This lucky thirteen in the series continues to delight readers with the complicated life of the advice columnist Sophie Winston. Her practical, often ingenious tips on cooking and entertaining are not only helpful, they provide hilarious contrasts with the pretentious Natasha. The Gwyneth Paltrow Goop-ish consultations have Natasha advising the gifts of licorice root, saffron, and ghost chili pepper as spices for a new homemaker, while Sophie wisely suggests oregano, cinnamon, and of course, salt and pepper. By now readers will have grown to accept the outrageous behavior and over-the-top demands of Natasha, not to mention Mars’ accustomed intrusiveness into Sophie’s life. A new intriguing element to this latest installment has Sophie sparring with Benton Bergeron, Abby’s ex-husband who is making spy-like dead drops around Old Town Alexandria. Mouth-watering recipes, adorable pets, and creative domestic advice all deliver the reliably crafted cozy mystery readers have come to expect, with code-breaking and spy-intrigue pushing it over the top. Even a crumbling bathroom renovation is deftly handled by the sure-footed Sophie, who capably tackles domestic living along with attacks on her actual life. The Domestic Diva’s future looks to be very bright and even more hilarious, which will more than satisfy her fictional fans and very real readers.
Sugar and Vice: A Cookie House Mystery by Eve Calder
Review by Cynthia Chow
After making work her priority in Manhattan while dreaming of “someday” visiting the dreamy-sounding town of Coral Cay, Kate McGuire finally embraced her fantasy by moving to South Florida and becoming the (junior) owning partner in Sam Hepplewhite’s Cookie House bakery. Now that they are again making cookies after a grief-induced hiatus, the Cookie House is preparing for the town’s annual tourist-attracting Pirate Festival. An event celebrating the pirate king Gentleman George Bly and his legendary buried treasure, assumptions are quickly made when Kate’s pup Oliver digs up a pirate boot and the skeleton still attached to it. It doesn’t take long before specialists determine that the bones in Maxi Mas-Buchanan’s flower shop backyard aren’t 400 years old, but figuring out who in town is missing and who knew when Kate’s friends would be out-of-town and able to bury it is much more of a puzzle. Things only get more chaotic when treasure hunters descend upon the town, refusing to believe in the modern-day body and determined to take the bounty for themselves. It certainly doesn’t help when Kate’s stalkery-ex-fiancé Evan Thorpe also arrives, luring in her Coral Cay Irregulars bookclub with a Thorpe Foundation-backed expedition to solve the mystery behind Sir George Bly and his mysterious missing treasure.
When not narrowing down possible candidates for the corpse or avoiding an assortment of unwanted suitors, Kate implements a Cookie-of-the-day contest of submitted family-favorite recipes. Pirate Night Dinners hosted at the Cookie House that serve as a gathering place for business owners and neighbors also highlights local delicacies and comfort-food cuisines, allowing for ample opportunities of vicarious tastings. Kate’s ex’s refusal to take no for an answer is infuriating, even if it does introduce another adorable furry member to the Coral Cay family. The mystery of the identity of the buried fake pirate continues alongside the myth of the Sir George Bly real pirate, whose reputation as being a true gentleman becomes contradicted by a newly discovered piece of evidence.
This second of the series continues to be a perfect escape for readers, whisking them away to the beachfront town full of charmingly named businesses and envious stores. Kate has softened the prickly Sam and reawakened his love of cookies, which are tantalizingly described as they stir up nostalgic memories of childhood and family. The mystery itself plays out in the background and delivers a very unexpected, but ultimately satisfying conclusion for these believable, well-rounded characters. A spark of romance could ignite in Kate’s future, although she is perfectly happy with her new life baking and surrounded by her Coral Cay friends and furry family. This is a heart-warming cozy mystery perfect for readers needing an entertaining escape into this sunny mystery that feels like a reassuring hug in uncertain times.
Killer Chardonnay: A Colorado Wine Mystery by Kate Lansing
Review by Sandra Murphy
Opening day at her new winery has Parker Valentine nervous enough. Nervous is an understatement when an argument between a couple breaks out and the local food and wine critic, Gaskel, shows up for a tasting. He’s known for his nasty reviews that can break a restaurant before it has a chance to begin.
He asks for a flight (small tastings) of her wines, starting with the chardonnay. He swirls, sips, and dumps the rest of the wine into a decorative vase. That’s the first clue he doesn’t like it. The frown on his face as he makes notes on his tablet is the second. When he goes to the restroom, Parker takes a sneak peek, only to see the words, sour, bitter, and amateur on the screen.
It’s been so long since Gaskel left for the restroom, Parker’s beginning to wonder if he slipped out the back door, tablet forgotten. When another customer complains, she knocks and then opens the door, only to find one extremely dead critic on the floor.
Although Parker can hope it’s from natural causes, the police detective, Eli, thinks it’s a possible poisoning. Apparently, so do her customers. Most bolt for the door as soon as they’ve given contact information to the police. Others take the time to tweet, using the hash tag #KillerCharconnay. Is her business just as dead as Gaskel?
With the crowd of customers, who had a chance to get close to the victim or a reason to kill him? Once the police confirm poison was added to the wine, Parker is allowed to reopen, but will anyone come? Only the ghoulish who want to be daring enough to order Killer Chardonnay.
Her brother and a friend are there, Liam taking photos and Reid scoping out the place, showing an awful lot of interest for a guy who was just along for the ride.
In order to save her fledgling business, Parker assists Eli in the investigation, whether he knows it or not. Or even wants her help. The main things to remember are, everyone has secrets and long memories.
This is the first in a promising series, set in Boulder. Details about wines and pairings are part of the conversation, not interfering with the storyline. There’s added drama with Liam, Reid, Parker’s friend Sage, and her boyfriend. Recipes for mango chutney grilled shrimp, Italian ratatouille with balsamic glaze, and dark chocolate espresso truffles can be found at the back of the book. Suggested wines are included. Readers will be thirsty for book two.
Murder with Clotted Cream: Daisy’s Tea Garden Mystery by Karen Rose Smith
Review by Sandra Murphy
Daisy’s Tea Garden, in Pennsylvania Amish country, is now catering, although Daisy isn’t sure she should have agreed to cater a tea for Margaret’s theater group. How will they ever put on a cohesive performance when all they do is squabble? In spite of it all, the tea goes without a hitch, at least until it’s time for dessert. It seems the guest have had enough of each other’s company and are in need of a break—one for a cigarette, one for fresh air, one to make a phone call, you get the drift.
Daisy’s To Do List is in the butler’s pantry so just to be sure she’s not forgotten anything, she goes to get it to check. Instead, it’s the list that’s forgotten when she finds Margaret’s body in a pool of blood with her dress covered in clotted cream. The police are called and alibis taken. Daisy swears her involvement has ended—until she’s asked to help. She’s helped before, welcome or not, but this puts a different spin on things. With her daughter Vi ready to give birth within weeks, daughter Jazz visiting her birth mother’s family, romance with Jonas warming up. and then dealing with her overbearing mother, she has her hands full already. She finally agrees to ask a few questions of two people with the understanding she stops there. Of course, that doesn’t work out as planned and she’s soon in the thick of things, a dangerous place to be.
This is the fifth book in the series. Daisy and Jonas are closer, working around tough spots and heading for a long lasting relationship. Vi and Foster are as prepared for their baby as anyone ever is (no gender reveal here!) Tess, Daisy’s friend and terrific cook, has a new man, too. The mystery is a good one, as always, eliminating one favored suspect after another. In spite of Daisy’s hectic schedule, it looks like things are just getting started.
Recipes are included: apple gingerbread, beef and lentil soup, fall fruit salad with apples, pears, and grapes with a peachy yogurt mayo dressing.
Smith also writes the Caprice DeLuca mysteries, eight in all, several reviewed here.
To enter to win a copy of all 6 mysteries, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “feast,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen June 20, 2020. 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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