by Sandra Murphy
This week we have another fun group of mysteries with food and craft related settings-Four Cuts Too Many: A Sarah Blair Mystery by Debra H. Goldstein, Murder in a Scottish Garden: A Scottish Shire Mystery by Traci Hall, and Murphy’s Slaw: An Alaskan Diner Mystery by Elizabeth Logan. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 3 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.
Four Cuts Too Many: A Sarah Blair Mystery by Debra H. Goldstein
Review by Sandra Murphy
Sarah Blair works in a law firm, volunteers with the local animal shelter, and co-owns a restaurant with her twin sister. The restaurant is the oddest job possible for her since she can’t cook beyond her one specialty—Jell-O in a Can.
Grace is a sous chef at the restaurant and asks to meet with Sarah at the college. Who knew there was such a thing as a knife skills class? In restaurant and hospitality studies, there is. The whole department is in an uproar over tenure—who gets it, who doesn’t, what happens next—plus plans for a new building or a satellite facility. Sarah’s worst enemy, Jane, is involved in that last idea.
During Grace’s beginning knife skills class, the new director makes a scene. It all turns into a bloody mess as Grace stomps out to cool off and meet Sarah. When they return to the classroom, it’s to find campus police on site, the police called, and the director dead. Grace is the obvious suspect but given his personality, there have to be other choices.
Sarah’s been around murders before and is sure Grace is innocent, despite the overwhelming, if circumstantial, evidence. With the help of her attorney boss, Harlan, Sarah sets out to keep Grace out of jail.
Of course, Jane can’t miss an opportunity to cause as much chaos as possible so her restaurant is a big success. Maybe if she spent as much time running the kitchen as she spends running her mouth, her parking lot would have more than a few cars in it during the dinner hour.
This is the fourth book in the series, all reviewed here. Sarah is figuring out her life, one stumbling step at a time. That’s her work life as well as her love life. On the plus side, she has RahRah, a Siamese cat, and Fluffy, a LWD (little white dog), a rescue, to keep her company. It’s clear, in that house, RahRah is the boss, Sarah and Fluffy obey. It’s a Cat Rule. There are plenty of hints that book five will bring change to Sarah’s life. Readers will be anxious to follow along and see what’s next for her—besides dead bodies, of course. At the back of the book, find recipes for egg salad, tiramisu, and stained glass Jell-O.
You can listen to a short story of Debra’s on Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast!
Murder in a Scottish Garden: A Scottish Shire Mystery by Traci Hall
Review by Sandra Murphy
As the mother of Brody, a ten-year-old boy, caretaker of Wallace, a Scottish terrier, and owner of Cashmere Crush, a custom-made sweater and yarn shop, Paislee Shaw’s schedule was constantly disrupted, causing her to be late for everything. Now that Grandpa is living with them, things should be a lot easier—except it’s not. After a stressful start with Grandpa, things at home are smoothing out for the most part. It’s not family life that’s causing so much stress now—it’s the dead bodies that keep turning up.
Paisley was room mother for a school outing to the fabulous Leery Estate. While the children waited to go into the maze, one had to make an emergency trip to the restroom. As Paisley waited outside the door, she heard a gunshot, and saw a body fall through the hedge. It looked like Shawn Marcus, her landlord at the store, and heir to the Leery Estate.
Despite her lease, Shawn delivered a letter saying the building had been sold and tenants had thirty days to relocate. Then he disappeared, leaving them in limbo. Now the thirty days are nearly up, no other locations are suitable, and where is Shawn? Unless, that’s him on the lawn.
A closer look proves the body is not Shawn but his cousin, Charles. Is his death due to his own shaky past or was it a case of mistaken identity? Shawn claims there were other attempts on his life, but he’s a drunk and could have imagined the threats. Shannon, his mother, is an eccentric older woman, surrounded by men who are in love with her. Also on hand, her daughter who no one knew about, the maid, the butler, her current lover, and her accountant, a frequent visitor. Motives are there, means, too, opportunity, probably. Paislee is involved because her business is in jeopardy and the little girl who needed the restroom claims Paislee locked her in, causing her emotional distress. Her parents want to sue. Paislee feels letting the kid out when there was an active shooter would have been more stressful.
This is book two in the series. Grandpa has lost a lot of his grumpiness, Brody is a delightful kid, and Wallace—who can resist a Scottish terrier? I enjoy this series a lot. My only problem was this time characters had similar names—Shannon, Shayla, Shawn (sometimes referred to by his last name, Marcus), Malcolm, Midge, Aila, Alexa, Arran, Graham, Grant, Gavin. Some are minor characters but most show up regularly and caused a pause as I remembered who was who. I’m looking forward to Murder at a Scottish Social, coming in January 2022.
Murphy’s Slaw: An Alaskan Diner Mystery by Elizabeth Logan
Review by Sandra Murphy
Native Alaskan Charlie Cook inherited the Bear Claw Diner when her mother retired. She also inherited her mother’s cat, Eggs Benedict, also known as Benny, one of the most pampered cats ever. The diner is open 24/7, but with a well-trained and enthusiastic crew, it runs smoothly.
Chris is a local reporter and a possible date. He spends a lot of time with Charlie, but is it the heated steering wheel in her car that he likes best or her? He’s never said and she’s not about to ask. Annie is the hotelier and Charlie’s best friend. She is no cook, so her customers end up at the diner. Trooper is law enforcement. When he’s swamped, he calls on Charlie, Chris, and Annie to be his eyes and ears for finding clues or doing interviews.
This time there’s been a murder just outside the fairgrounds for the huge state fair. A woman was found stabbed to death—and it was a woman Charlie knew. A former classmate, friend, and now produce vendor for the diner, Kelly was well liked.
On the surface, suspects would be few but digging deeper, the three ‘almost-deputies’ find a property dispute, a lawsuit, man trouble, a theft, and more. It seems the suspect list wasn’t so short after all.
Charlie’s never been a fan of the state fair so going there to find clues is more of a hardship than it would be for most people. As each potential clue is ruled out and alibis are checked, Charlie begins to wonder if they’ll find the killer or will the killer find her. After all, there were mysterious, threatening notes.
This is book three in the series, all reviewed for KRL. Readers will remember the attraction between Chris and Charlie that neither acted on. Now there’s a complication that might make that impossible. Charlie’s parents are due back in town soon and that will add another layer to the next book as her mom hasn’t quite retired as Charlie can tell from the postcards she receives. Benny, as always, steals every scene he’s in, whether face to face or via the Benny Cam.
For a good mystery in a place where the sun shines twenty hours a day and cabbages reach triple digits in weight, this book will take you to the fair without having to find comfortable walking shoes or pack sunscreen. In the back of the book, find recipes for the Bear Claw’s slaw and Boston cream pie.
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 craft” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen July 24, 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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