by Sandra Murphy
& Cynthia Chow
This week we have another group of fun food mysteries for your summer reading-Deadly Sweet Tooth: A Vintage Sweets Mystery by Kaye George, Peachy Scream: A Georgia B&B Mystery by Anna Gerard, Nacho Average Murder: A Country Store Mystery by Maddie Day, and Southern Sass and a Crispy Corpse: A Marygene Brown Mystery by Kate Young. 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.
Deadly Sweet Tooth: A Vintage Sweets Mystery by Kaye George
Review by Sandra Murphy
Tally’s Olde Tyme Sweets is located in Fredericksburg, Texas. Remember the treats you loved as a kid? Tally sells those—Twinkies, mallomars, whoopie pies, Mary Janes, Clark bars—all made from scratch right in the store. Tally’s best friend, Yolanda, has a gift basket shop next door. Life is good.
Tally’s brother, Cole, is on his way. The last time he visited, he left a Maine Coon cat for Tally to adopt—without asking her about it. Who can resist an extra-large sized cat named Nigel? Tally couldn’t.
Tally’s hosting a reception for her parents, coming for their first visit. The party is a roaring success, but there’s always one person who wants to spoil the party. That’s Fran. She and her husband, Len, were once good friends with Tally’s parents. Now that’s a thing of the past.
There are other personal dramas on the menu as well. There’s a young woman hanging on Len’s arm and his every word, much to Fran’s disgust. She may not like her husband, but she’s not willing to share.
Fran starts a loud argument with Tally’s folks when Tally’s mom is already feeling ill. Moments after Tally’s parents leave the party to get some rest, Fran collapses and is rushed to the hospital.
While Tally’s mom recovers, the same can’t be said for Fran who was poisoned, With a goal of clearing her parents of suspicion and to protect the store, Tally vows to find other suspects—and just maybe, the killer.
This is the second book in the series. Tally is keeping supply ahead of demand (barely) and loving her business. She’s hired three new retail clerks on probation. Her love life could use improvement but that’s for another day.
For a good mystery and sweet treats, head to Fredericksburg. Find the recipe for homemade whoopie pies at the back of the book. Sticky fingers may make the pages hard to turn, but it will be worth it.
Peachy Scream: A Georgia B&B Mystery by Anna Gerard
Review by Sandra Murphy
Nina Fleet fell in love with a three-story Queen Anne home that dates to the 1890s. Located an hour west of Savannah, Georgia, it’s got charm galore. It’s also currently rented to a troupe of Shakespearean actors, in town for the annual festival. Although the actors are amateurs, they are skilled and clearly lovers of the Bard’s work.
If only their director was…someone else. When the owner of the house died, it was assumed she’d leave it and the contents to her nephew, Harry. The will had been updated, the house listed for sale, and Nina made a successful offer. Harry was not pleased. Lawsuits are pending. Of course, he’d turn out to be the director of the Shakespeareans.
He is a wonderful director and actor but often a louse to deal with. A truce is called for the duration and Nina can’t wait for the festival to be over.
Len is a high maintenance guest. He claims an injured knee, not bad enough to keep him from acting but painful enough to prevent him using the stairs to a second floor room. Another of the guests is a much younger actor named Chris, the one with ear buds and phone taking up all available time and attention. There are two single men, another couple, and Len’s wife, totaling eight, counting Harry. It’s going to be a long two weeks.
Offstage the troupe is a hot mess of arguments, accusations, and animosity. Two days into their stay, Len goes out to smoke in the designated garden area and doesn’t come back. He can’t—he’s dead.
With Len out of the picture, his wife locked in her grief and her room, will the show go on? The festival’s success is riding on the actors’ ability to rise above and perform as usual. With suspects limited to troupe members, it’s hard to sleep, knowing a killer is close at hand.
I enjoyed the characters a lot, especially Nina and Harry. I predict more time together in their futures. Nina’s Australian shepherd, Matilda, adds even more charm to the story, as all dogs do.
Peach Clobbered is the first book in the series. Gerard, writing as Ali Brandon, also pens the Black Cat Bookshop mysteries (6), the Tarot Cat book (1), and the Leonardo Da Vinci series (writing as Diane A. S. Stuckart, 3 books).
Nacho Average Murder: A Country Store Mystery by Maddie Day
Review by Cynthia Chow
High school reunions are usually a mixed bag. While they can provide the opportunities to restart old friendships and catch up with former best friends, they may also reignite never-forgotten resentments and past rivalries. For Pans ‘N Pancakes owner Robbie Jordan, returning to Santa Barbara for her Chumash High School ten-year reunion brings both. Robbie is delighted to be back with the newly engaged biochemist bestie Alana Lieberman, but it also puts Robbie back in the eye-line of bossy mean girl Katherine Russom. Not only did the wedding planner organize their high school reunion, her father happens to be the president of the controversial Agrosafe chemical company. It is local resident Paul Etxeberria who links Walter Russom to the recent death of Robbie’s mother, who Paul claims was intentionally poisoned by one of his company’s products. Robbie is stunned by the suggestion that her mother’s aneurism was actually a case of murder, but she’s unable to ignore the possibility when Paul himself is found dead.
Fortunately, one of Robbie’s high school pals also happens to be the cybercrime investigator for the Santa Barbara Police Department, and he grants her access to those with insight into both cases. Robbie’s dreamy boyfriend Abe O’Neill remains back home in South Lick, Indiana, but Alana’s upcoming nuptials help them to get closer to the still-irritating Katherine and learn more about her possibly homicidal father. Along the way Robbie savors the Cali-Mex cuisine of the Nacho Average Café, a delightful restaurant that shares not just her practice of farm-to-table meals, but an affinity for six-toed cats. Drug addiction, gambling, greedy widows, and company misdeeds all provide our favorite chef with a surfeit of motives for murder past and present.
This seventh in the series seems to do its best to outmatch previous entries with descriptions of mouth-watering meals, despite Robbie being away from her restaurant and out of the kitchen. Even SBPD investigator Jason Chang whips up a version of his grandmother’s stir-fry, with an easy but delicious recipe included at the end. Robbie’s emotions are bubbling at the surface with the implications concerning her own mother, but her involvement in the present investigation is seamlessly integrated into the official investigation and never seems intrusive or implausible. Robbie’s friendships and reunions with her charismatic former classmates is so naturally presented that it feels as though readers have known them all along, and having them appear in a future installment would be welcome. The topics of locavore cooking and organic farming are presented in ways that educate and tantalize, using humor and clever writing to make the discussions compelling. Whether written under the name Maddie Day or Edith Maxwell, these series highlighting cooking and farming never fail to entertain with their spirited heroines and sparkling dialogue.
Southern Sass and a Crispy Corpse: A Marygene Brown Mystery by Kate Young
Review by Cynthia Chow
Much has changed for Marygene Brown since she returned home to help her sister run their Peach Diner on Peach Cove Island, Georgia. While their mother Clara Brown may have recently passed away, she certainly hasn’t moved on and her ghostly presence continues to make Marygene a focus point for those in a similarly deceased state. That may be why when one of Marygene’s rare adventurous attempts to be daring by skinny-dipping in the ocean has her bobbing next to a burnt up corpse. The only person less enthused than Sheriff Eddie Carter to see Marygene once again in the midst of a murder investigation is Deputy Alex Myers, her on-again off-again boyfriend. Trauma from Marygene’s abusive marriage and Alex’s inability to commit have them in the “off” stage of their relationship, which makes it both convenient and awkward when new Deputy Javier Reyes finds her intriguing. His suspecting Marygene’s real estate friend Yvonne Brookers of possibly being involves is infuriating, but that pales in comparison to the lengths her newly found father Eddie will go to in order to keep Marygene safe.
The decisions Clara Brown makes in her limbo afterlife will determine whether or not she gets to makes it into heaven, meaning that Marygene has both the gift and irritation of her mother’s attempts to repair their fractured relationship. At least Marygene’s sister Jena Lynn has some good news of her own, although that also means that Marygene wants to keep her as far away from any murder investigation as possible. That need is made obvious when the home Marygene inherited from her mother is burnt down, leaving her homeless and forced to bunk with her exuberant Aunt Vi. Fortunately Marygene’s friend and flirtatious waitress Betsy is always eager to eavesdrop and spy in order to gather information, as is Marygene’s Meemaw; who apparently had a talent for corpse-encountering of her own. Missing twins, a tourist-attracting Taste of Peach Cove Event, and a questionable mortician all ensure that the ghost of her mother will be the least upsetting presence in Marygene’s future.
This second in the series makes the most of the Southern island setting, with descriptions of mouth-watering southern comfort cuisine as essential as the polite manners and nosiness of neighbors. This is a town where everyone knows one another—possibly for generations—and news spreads faster than any newspaper could ever convey. The relationship between Marygene and Alex and Eddie is fascinating, made even more complex by their histories and secrets. Her relatives and friends are absolute delights in these novels, with their eccentricities never seeming too over-the-top or unbelievable. In fact, they are a dream-team of emotional and investigative support, especially when the law enforcement officers seem too personally invested to act rashly. Full of humor, southern cooking, and a surprisingly helpful ghost, this second in the Marygene Brown mystery series showcases her strength as a vulnerable, likable, and evolving amateur detective.
To enter to win a copy of all 4 mysteries, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “picnic,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen July 25, 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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