by Cynthia Chow
Here are 3 more mysteries from Penguin authors for your summer reading fun, 2 involve food and one books-The Diva Serves High Tea: A Domestic Diva Mystery by Krista Davis, The Calamity Cafe: A Down South Cafe Mystery by Gayle Leeson, and Birds of a Feather: A Bibliophile Mystery by Kate Carlisle. Details at the end of this post on how to win a copies of all 3, and a link to purchase them.
The Diva Serves High Tea: A Domestic Diva Mystery by Krista Davis
Review by Cynthia Chow
Sophie Winston never welcomes rival “domestic diva” Natasha Smith’s presence, but her frantic plea after being attacked has even Sophie sympathetic. Terrified and with a tale of being attacked in her house, Natasha tearfully finagles herself into temporarily residing in Sophie’s neighboring home. That Sophie’s ex-husband Mars is breaking up with Natasha definitely doesn’t help the situation, even though Natasha seems to have already moved on. Too bad that her target happens to be Robert Johnson, the new owner of an antique store and a widowed Casanova who has many of Old Town, Virginia’s senior ladies all a-flutter. One of those interested suitors also happens to be Wanda, Natasha’s free-spirited, New Age mother who continues to be a source of her daughter’s embarrassment. Even worse is when Robert dies of botulism poisoning during a fund-raiser at the new Parlour tearoom as Sophie was really loving those English teas and pastries. As the poisonings spread and the source seemingly untraceable, the future of both The Parlour and those closest to Sophie become uncertain.
Having been involved in more than her share of murder investigations, it’s not long before Sophie and her friends quickly dive in despite the rather feeble warnings by Sophie’s ex-boyfriend Wolf Fleishman. Robert’s late wife continues to have strong ties within the town, but due to his last-word utterance the one looking guilty is Wanda.
As much as Sophie enjoys the presence of the woman who exasperates Natasha, Sophie is a bit distracted. Sophie’s attorney boyfriend Alex is rather obliviously doing what he can to help the ex-wife of his former law partner, and the divorcee appears to be very eager to revise her single status.
My enjoyment of this Domestic Diva Mystery series is often affected by the presence and behavior of Natasha. Writing a rival lifestyle blog, dating Sophie’s ex-husband, buying a home next door, and then constantly disparaging Sophie all make Natasha extremely difficult to like. Thankfully, we see some vulnerability and justification behind Natasha’s insecure vanity, and Sophie continues to shine in her advice columns and recipe suggestions.
The highlights of this tenth of the series are the delightful interactions between Sophie and Kevin, a ten year-old aspiring chef caught in the middle of his parents’ divorce. It will be fascinating to see where this series head towards in the future, as long as it continues to feature Sophie, quirky Old Town residents, and alternating advice counsels from two very opposing viewpoints.
The Calamity Cafe: A Down South Cafe Mystery by Gayle Leeson
Review by Cynthia Chow
Ever since finishing culinary school, Amy Flowers dreamed of owning her own restaurant. Her Nana’s failing health led to Amy first returning home to be with her family, though, working as an overqualified waitress for the skinflint, tip-stealing owner of Lou’s Joint. Now that Nana has passed and left Amy with a sizable inheritance, she finally has the means to buy out Lou Lou Holman and transform the beaten-down diner into the dream Down South Cafe. It’s too bad that Lou Lou stubbornly refuses to sell, but it’s even worse that Amy is the one who finds Lou Lou murdered in her office.
Although Amy is questioned by the undeniably attractive Deputy Ryan Hall, Lou Lou’s son Pete doesn’t hesitate to ask Amy to both continue cooking and to buy out his restaurant. There’s no way she can refuse either offer, as Amy’s greatest wish has been to create the type of place where residents feel welcome to gather as a part of their social day. Amy is now one step closer to her goal, as her friend Roger begins renovations while her cousin helps to cook and introduce a new Southern menu. If only the murder, an unexpected discovery in the cafe wall, and Holman family scandals don’t prevent Amy’s dream from coming true.
This is the promising start of a new series by a cozy writer already established under the names Amanda Lee and Gayle Trent. She introduces a cast that quickly grows on readers, from Amy’s Instagramming, net-savvy great-Aunt Bess to a senior resident attached to his daily habits and heroic figures. Fans of this genre will adore Amy’s wirehaired terrier and Princess Eloise Persian cat who more than lives up to her name, while foodies will appreciate the recipes and descriptions of genuine Southern cuisine. The hints of romance and effervescent dialogue keep the tone fun and breezy, while skilled writing propels the plot forward. In a market inundated with culinary mysteries, this new novel has the spark and creativity to appeal to an eager audience.
Birds of a Feather: A Bibliophile Mystery by Kate Carlisle
Review by Cynthia Chow
Book restoration expert and artist Brooklyn Wainwright has never been happier. Successful at a career she loves, Brooklyn recently became engaged to Derek Storm, former British navy commander, ex-MI6 agent, and current private security expert. As charming and nearly perfect as he is, though, it is not until Brooklyn meets his best friend Crane that she sees this lighter, more relaxed version of Derek. Crane has come to San Francisco from China to promote Asian commerce and to ask his brother Bai to return home to the family. A bitter and resentful second son, Bai may be reluctant to abandon his plans to restore what he believes is his family’s stolen honor.
Brooklyn herself is busy with multiple clients that have enjoyably salvaged extraordinary books worth tens of thousands of dollars. One of those includes a wine-stained book of bird illustrations owned by Jared Mulroney, president of the National Bird-watchers Society whom Brooklyn meets at the Covington Library’s Audubon exhibit. Before she can complete the restoration, Brooklyn finds Jared murdered in the library. Break-in attempts at Brooklyn’s apartment further alarm and confuse just who is the actual target, but for once the police are enlisting her assistance and expert advice.
While the plot skillfully delves into thriller territory, tension is alleviated for both the reader and Brooklyn through her detailed and fascinating work on beloved tomes. A sentimental book illustrations defaced by Homicide Inspector Janice Lee as a child, a contested volume of To Kill a Mockingbird in a divorce case, and the inventory for a friend who may be the target of a manipulative thief all have Brooklyn relying on her friends for support. Fortunately, those include a self-defense expert neighbor, the local detectives, and of course, her fiancé, the owner of his own security company.
What is so astounding is how Kate Carlisle makes the details of specialized glues and tools as riveting as the dynamics of Brooklyn’s eccentric family. Raised in a commune led by Guru Bob, Brooklyn’s parents have come to visit for a wedding and Grateful Dead reunion concert. Their presence further enhances the unique San Francisco setting, whose residents are very particular about the region and where even the fog has its own Twitter account. As strong as the plot is, the core of this novel is Brooklyn and her inner circle. Even as the investigation heats up and she and Derek build up their security, Brooklyn copes with the very relatable dilemma of what it means to fully commit to a relationship. Once again, author Kate Carlisle has crafted a novel with a smart and likable heroine, witty dialogue, and delightful bookbinding details completely unique to this series.
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 “food books,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen July 2, 2016. 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 this link: