by Cynthia Chow
We are excited to be reviewing the first book in Daryl Wood Gerber’s (aka Avery Aames) brand new series! Details on winning of copy of Final Sentence at the end of this post. Also in this same issue, a never before published mystery short story by Daryl.
Leaving San Francisco and her successful career as an in-demand marketing expert, Jenna Hart allowed her Aunt Vera to convince her to return to her hometown of Crystal Cove, California. Aunt Vera owns the Fisherman’s Village Mall and wants Jenna to reopen the cookbook store and café. The deaths of both her mother and husband two years ago devastated Jenna and created a rift between her and her father, a former FBI analyst turned consultant turned Crystal Cove hardware store owner and handyman. Although Jenna knows little about cooking she’s a whiz at marketing and so she arranges to have her former college roommate and current celebrity chef Desiree Divine attend The Cookbook Nook’s opening for a book signing.
Desiree herself is no slouch at self-promotion and she arrives in RVs filled with an entourage that includes a jealous sister, possessive director and lover, and a masseuse whose relationship with Desiree is questionable at best. In a town as small as Crystal Cove rumors fly and are taken as truth and a most shocking one that hints Desiree had an affair with Jenna’s late husband has her racing towards a confrontation. Unfortunately, before Jenna can discover the truth she stumbles into a sand sculpture of a mermaid that is in fact the all too real body of Desiree, hooked like a fish buried in the sand.
Accusations made to Police Chief Cinnamon Pritchett that Jenna is a murderer would be less concerting were they not by beading store owner Pepper Pritchett, Cinnamon’s mother who has an over-the-top and completely irrational hatred for Jenna over a believed betrayal by Jenna’s parents. Jenna’s father would prefer that she leave the investigation to the police chief he mentored, but even he cannot deny that suspicion continues to be falling upon her. This leaves Jenna no choice but to question the many in town who seem to have resented the ambitious chef. Jealousy over stolen recipes, a prolific love life, and an ambitious desire for a career have left a wake of contenders for those wanting Desiree dead. Luckily for Jenna she has her own gallery of allies that include her childhood friend and cooking genius chef Katie Casey, Bailey Bird, another childhood friend and former marketing co-worker, and Rhett Jackson, the attractive fishing store owner with his own past as a successful chef.
Also the author of the Cheese Shop Mystery series under the name Avery Aames, Gerber creates a small town where everyone is connected. Jenna’s Cary Grant lookalike father is named Cary Hart; a possible romantic interest of course is Rhett; Lola Bird owns the Pelican Brief Diner (although it’s the result of the former attorney’s love for the John Grisham novel, not an avian reference); the two main threats to Jenna’s freedom are Pepper and Cinnamon.
Delectable descriptions of the Crystal Cove café’s menu abound with recipes included at the end of the novel for those who are as ambitious are they are food voyeurs. However, even in this very cozy and light-hearted mystery Gerber never shies away from confronting Jenna’s grief over her losses even if she has progressed from anti-depressants to self-medicating with Tootsie Rolls. In fact, many of the characters have never recovered from the tragedies of their past and this has continued to cause them to stumble and fail in the present. With the police chief so hampered by her own mother’s prejudices, Jenna’s investigation into the murder never seems inappropriate and the skills that made her a brilliant marketing whiz help her to ferret out the truth from her targets, be they high-priced hairstylists or celebrity restaurant owners. The author has an obvious affection for her characters and an extensive knowledge of cookbooks and good food, so mystery readers will enjoy this well-plotted and craftily constructed novel. Perhaps Jenna herself would have approved of the marketing genius of the cover, as it depicts the mystery books written by the author, beautiful scenery, cookbooks, chocolate chip cookies, and an absolutely adorable rescue kitten. Who could ask for anything more?
To enter to win a copy of Final Sentence, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Final,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen July 13, 2013. U.S. residents only.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.