Summer Food Mysteries

Jul 8, 2023 | 2023 Articles, Cynthia Chow, Mysteryrat's Maze, Sandra Murphy

by Cynthia Chow & Sandra Murphy

This week we have reviews of more fun food mysteries for your summer reading-A Murder of Aspic Proportions: A Sunflower Café Mystery by Amy Lillard, Hidden Beneath: A Maine Clambake Mystery by Barbara Ross, Give Fudge a Chance: A Candy-Coated Mystery by Nancy Coco, and The Diva Delivers on a Promise: A Domestic Diva Mystery by Krista Davis. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 4 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.

A Murder of Aspic Proportions: A Sunflower Café Mystery by Amy Lillard
Review by Sandra Murphy

Sissy Yoder isn’t Amish, but her Aunt Bethel is, so when her aunt broke her leg, Sissy went to help. It was a bit of a culture shock for both of them. Sissy drives her convertible much faster than Bethel is comfortable with, but when she needs a ride and time is of the essence, what other choice does she have but to ask Sissy for a ride and then hang on tight?

On their way back from the doctor’s office, getting the cast removed, of course, they pass a roadside sign advertising ‘to die for tomatoes.’ When they stop to shop for produce for the Sunflower Café, her aunt’s restaurant, the owner is nowhere to be found— until they go into the grow house. There’s Walt, facedown on the ground, surrounded by a puddle of water. Sissy’s not happy about the situation. After all, she was accused of murder once before. Now she’s standing next to another victim and hoping it was natural causes.

Of course, it wasn’t. Now Bethel thinks the pair of them are Cagney and Lacy, the Amish version. Since Walt was hated by pretty much everyone who knew him, the list of suspects is long. There’s nothing for Sissy to do but roll up her sleeves, gather up her Yorkie, Duke, and along with Bethel, figure out who did it. In her spare time from working at the restaurant and secretly writing her advice column, of course.

I like the way Amish and non-Amish are mixed in this second book in the series. Sissy is someone you’d like to know although you’d hesitate to get in a car when she’s behind the wheel. Bethel has rules to follow but is willing to bend them when necessary. It’s surprising how many times it’s necessary.

For an enjoyable read, visit Amish country with Sissy and Duke.

Hidden Beneath: A Maine Clambake Mystery by Barbara Ross
Review by Sandra Murphy

Morrow Island is owned by Jacqueline Snowdon and is the site of the Snowden Family Clambake. During the summer months, they serve lobster and clams, steamed in a bonfire on the beach, and accompanied by the usual side dishes. When tourists don’t venture out to visit over the winter, everyone patches together several part-time jobs to tide them over.

Now Jacqueline’s old family home has been restored so she and her oldest daughter, Julia, can live on the island full-time. Although life has progressed on Morrow, they’ve gotten a call to revisit the past on nearby Chipmunk Island. Ginny Merrill has been declared dead after an absence of five years. She was last seen going for her daily swim. Her body was never found. Much to her surprise, Jacqueline is named executor of Ginny’s estate, even though they hadn’t seen each other in over forty years.

Ginny was a member of the Wednesday Club, women who met weekly during the summers. They’ve been caring for her house, and all arrive the first day Jacqueline and Julia are there to begin the task of handling bequests. Julia’s surprised to see the downstairs is pristine, with freshly painted-over murals, unlike Ginny’s usual comfortable clutter of belongings.

Jacqueline asks Julia to talk to the women to find out what could have happened. There have been others who went missing in the past but none like Ginny’s disappearance. There must be more to the story.

As the past and the present collide, deaths occur, and Julia learns more through Ginny’s journals, it becomes apparent the idyllic setting of the island hides secrets that cause Julia to reassess both her past life choices and her future.

Julia is always an intriguing character. Her relationship with Chris has ended, but is it truly over? Her sister, Livvie, has a new job for the winter, Julia as well, her living arrangements are drastically different, and Jacqueline is dating, again? It’s a lot for her to handle but she does it well without being smug. This mystery is more convoluted than usual since it deals with the past and the present at the same time. It’s one I certainly enjoyed and couldn’t wait to find out what really happened – while hoping the story wouldn’t end.

As a bonus, at the back of the book, find recipes for lobster fried rice, crunchy fried chicken, orange date and nut bread, apricot squares, and ginger lemon cookies.

Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the Arch in St. Louis Missouri. She’s editor for Peace, Love, and Crime: Crime Stories Inspired by the Songs of the ’60s, with twenty-two cozy stories. She also edited A Murder of Crows, twenty-one stories featuring animals and crime (no animals were harmed). She also writes for magazines, newsletters, and the occasional guest blog. Both anthologies are available at the usual outlets, print or ebook.

Give Fudge a Chance: A Candy-Coated Mystery by Nancy Coco
Review by Cynthia Chow

It’s August on Mackinac Island, and the Lake Huron town is in the midst of celebrating the Mackinac County Fair with cornhole contests, cooking competitions, and even a haunted house. Unfortunately, it’s the latter where Allie McMurphy stumbles onto a very real corpse, which even more disturbingly isn’t that unusual an event for the hotel and fudge shop owner. So, it shouldn’t be too surprising that her fudge entry in the candy contest momentarily overshadows the death, as winning would qualify Allie for the State Fair. No one is more surprised that her Deep Chocolate Mint Fudge wins Best in Show than Christine Keller, whose caramels have taken the trophy for the past twenty years. Immediately protesting the loss and accusing Allie of cheating, Christine creates a hashtag war of TeamChristine that forces the town known as the Fudge Capital to choose sides.

Clues that Allie overheard just outside of the haunted house lead Police Officer Rex Manning to a variety of possible suspects, but another death in the historical McMurphy hotel has Allie concerned that the parkour athlete may have been thrown and not just fallen off of the roof. It’s probably not the best time for wildly popular food video podcasters to arrive with the mission to feature Allie as their guest, but she can’t deny the boost that their Tailored Food Adventures TikTok account would give to her business. Her inability to remain uninvolved in murder investigations, combined with the romantic attentions from both a jealous Rex and the undeniably flirtatious B&B owner Harry Winston, ensure that Allie’s Fall season will be filled with more than just fudge making, book clubs, and Fall Festival Committee meetings.

Filled with candy-making descriptions, awkward romantic dinners, and scenes of Allie’s adorable Bichonpoo Mal and calico cat Mella, this eleventh in the series delivers everything the prolific author’s fans could desire. The use of social media to both attack and promote Allie’s businesses is depicted all too realistically, examining a trend that doesn’t show any sign of slowing down. Easy fudge recipes will please cozy mystery readers looking for their next tasty treat, but the majority of readers will vicariously devour the many varieties of Allie’s extraordinary and mouth-watering creations. This is another very fun installment that will have fans both cheering for and groaning at Rex’s slow-but-determined efforts to romance Allie. Cozy mystery fans shouldn’t delay booking their next visit to Mackinac Island and its equally charming McMurphy Hotel.

The Diva Delivers on a Promise: A Domestic Diva Mystery by Krista Davis
Review by Cynthia Chow

While Domestic Diva Sophie Winston is thrilled to be a part of A Healthy Meal, an organization providing meals for children in need, she didn’t expect that she would be attending its annual luncheon meeting. Its regular host Gerrie Stansfield was still in mourning after the death of her husband just three months ago, but apparently Gerrie has recovered enough to provide her usual outstanding decorative table settings and elegant cuisine. Not on the menu was the body of Russ Everett, whom a now-screaming attendee finds stabbed to death and left in the dining room. For once Sophie doesn’t recognize the victim, but Gerrie soon identifies him as a worker for her late husband’s kitchen supply company. An additional complication alarms Sophie when a deliveryman goes missing and she needs to fill in as a favor, only to find Irv Baskin alive but with his head concussed and missing his delivery hat. Sophie believes this may be how the killer was able to enter Gerrie’s home undetected, but suspicion is quickly stirred up linking her to the victim and perhaps to a jealous rival.

Sophie’s alarming but successful track record in solving murders would normally have her in the midst of the case, but she’s also distracted by a scheme taking advantage of the increase in Ghost Kitchens. The pandemic’s closure of restaurants coinciding with the need for more takeout delivery services led to the creation of more food services working without sit-in dining, and Sophie is all for well-crafted food being made accessible to more customers. Someone is taking advantage of the system by being an illegitimate middleman jacking up the prices and assuming false identities, which not only cheats clients, it also upheaves Sophie’s need for fairness. Despite the ensuing multiple investigations, Sophie still has time to care for her adorable pets, cook up delicious meals, and provide sensible and sane advice to her Domestic Diva readers.

This sixteenth in the series rewards longtime fans with appearances by nearly all of their favorite characters. Having gone through a number of rocky romantic relationships, Sophie is — for now — focusing on her businesses and the happiness of her friends. Her eternal nemesis Natasha Reid Norwood has not slowed down one bit in their one-sided rivalry, still intent on mending her relationship with her ex, who just happens to also be Sophie’s ex-husband. That Natasha has managed to not get herself murdered yet is something of a miracle, and no one shows more tolerance or patience for her antics than Sophie. The love life of Sophie’s friend Officer Wong is fraught with tension as well, as her own ex-husband Eddie has just appeared in town having lost none of his charm nor his affinity for criminal acts. Readers will be drawn to the intrigue as much as they will the descriptions of tantalizing luncheon and food events, with recipes included at the end. There are enough new characters introduced to make this accessible to those jumping into the series for the first time, but it’s those who have long followed the books who will relish the appearances by their favorite friends and their pets.

To enter to win a copy of all 4 books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “summer food,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen July 15, 2023. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. If entering via email please include your mailing address in case you win, it will be deleted after the contest. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also listen to our new mystery podcast where mystery short stories and first chapters are read by actors! They are also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Spotify. A new episode goes up next week.

Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).

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.


  1. All four books look amazing.
    I love books that have.

    • These books sound great! Thanks for the opportunity to win.

  2. A great bunch of books! I don’t know how you do it every month!

  3. Some favorites that I’ve been keeping
    up with and a couple new series that
    I’d like to start. All sound great.
    thanks. txmlhl(at)yahoo(dot)com

  4. Great choices. Thanks for the chance.

  5. They all sound so good! Thanks for chance.

  6. Looks like great books to read. Thank you for the opportunity to win.

    • Great titles. Thanks for a chance to win them!

  7. Food mysteries are the BEST (and I have to admit that I tend to be a bit addicted to them since I love to cook and bake!) This looks like a great choice of books! Thanks for the opportunity!

  8. Thank you for the opportunity! I will be down after a surgery so I’m looking for more books to read!

  9. A few of my favorite series and a new one to check out! Thanks for the reviews.

  10. Love food Mysteries and read the Diva and Clambake series. Reading these reviews made me want to get to know Ms. Lillard and Ms. Coco’s work! Thanks for the chance!

    • Those 4 books look great! Can’t wait to read alll these books. Great giveaway!

  11. Love foodie Mysteries. Would love to read all of them. Thanks for the chance.

  12. Wow! These books sound like great reads and the covers are all so cute!! Thanks for the chance!

  13. These all sound great!

  14. A Murder of Aspic Proportions by Amy Lillard, Hidden Beneath by Barbara Ross, Give Fudge a Chance by Nancy Coco, and The Diva Delivers on a Promise by Krista Davis all sound like delicious summer reads! I have read and enjoyed other books by these authors. I’d love to read their newest releases as well!

  15. We have a winner!


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