by Cynthia Chow
& Sandra Murphy
Here are some more wonderful food mysteries from Penguin authors-Berried Secrets by Peg Cochran, If Onions Could Spring Leeks by Paige Shelton, A Dish Best Served Cold by Rosie Genova, and Dream a Little Scream: A Dream Club Mystery By Mary Kennedy. Details on how to win copies of all 4 books at the end of this post, along with a link to purchase them.
Berried Secrets by Peg Cochran
Review by Sandra Murphy
Monica Albertson’s had a run of bad luck. Her fiancé died in an accident and her tiny bakery business was killed by a big-name coffeehouse opening right across the street. Rather than face friends, she heads to Cranberry Cove to help her brother. The cranberry farm is not doing as well as it should (Jeff was in Afghanistan), so Monica will go over the books and add some bakery products to their little farm store.
Sam Culbertson sold the farm to Jeff and managed it while Jeff was deployed. In spite of the fact that Sam is mayor, it seems he has no real fans in town. Jeff’s not happy with the way Sam ran the farm, Cora hates Sam for raising her rent and putting her out of business, and Sam blackmailed a worker, mistreated his wife, and bought the mayoral election … and that’s just for starters. When his dead body turns up in Jeff’s bog (they composted those cranberries), it’s not much of a surprise that he was murdered. With so many suspects, who actually did the deed?
Jeff is, of course, lead suspect, since it’s his farm. The rest are not far behind, though, as alibis fall apart. Detective Stephens (Tammy) is eight months and more pregnant and hopes to solve this case quickly. Not going to happen.
When a second body turns up, some suspects are cleared while others stay in the running. Monica has her hands full with baking for the store, looking for wholesale customers, asking questions, and trying to control Gina (Jeff’s mom, Monica’s stepmom) who shows up and announces that their father has left her for someone else.
Monica starts out rather OCD but loosens up as the story goes on. With Gina around, she doesn’t have much choice in the matter! It looks like there might be romance in the air—for Jeff, Gina, and Monica. How cranberries are harvested is woven into the storyline without distracting from the murder. Side characters, like the older twin sisters who run the candy shop and the colorful woman who runs the New Age shop, add color—in addition to Gina, who is a rainbow of color all by herself.
This is the first in a new series with a lot to look forward to in the next book—will Monica’s romance take off? Will Gina’s aromatherapy shop be a success? Will Monica adopt a kitten from the twins? And most of all—did Detective Stephens have that baby?
Recipes for cranberry coffee cake, cranberry butterscotch bars, and cranberry bread pudding with streusel topping are at the back of the book—or you could just drop by the farm store and buy them instead! Cochran also writes the Gourmet De-Lite series (three volumes to date).
If Onions Could Spring Leeks by Paige Shelton
Review by Sandra Murphy
Betts and Gram are teaching a class on how to cook veggies. Students include Todd, who is sweet on April but can’t show it; April, who doesn’t get it; Roy, who met someone online and wants to impress her; Derek, a sourpuss who somehow managed to be married (and divorced) five times; and Lynn, Derek’s mother, who could give whole new depths of meaning to “helicopter mom.”
In Broken Rope, Missouri, the entire town is part of daily reenactments for the tourists. It used to involve horse-drawn carriages but there got to be too many tourists, so Roy invented the Triggers—motorized carriages. The cooking class students take turns driving.
Broken Rope is a town full of ghosts seen by Betts and Gram. Jerome is a cowboy, dead for many years, who appears when Betts is in danger. In spite of the age difference and the fact that he’s dead, they have a little crush on each other. Other ghosts come and go.
Gram has been having nightmares about two murderous ghosts. Betts met both men and doesn’t see them as killers. Grace, a black woman, is at the center of their conflict. Betts has a bit of conflict herself, as she’s in love with Cliff, a real live policeman. He’s aware there’s something else going on (a/k/a Jerome), but not the details; he’s decided maybe it’s best not to know too much.
Things are different this time around, though. Usually the ghosts appear, solve whatever problem was bothering them, and then go away. For some reason, Jerome is having trouble making himself appear, so he jumps into likely bodies—much to the dismay of the bodies’ current owners. It’s confusing to Betts, too—there are times she can’t tell who’s a ghost and who’s real.
When Betts finds Derek’s body in the barn, and is herself bopped on the head, things get ugly. Suspects include his five ex-wives, maybe Todd (jealous about April), Roy (since it’s his barn), and a few others. Derek always seemed to have money, but how? He did odd jobs. The ex-wives aren’t talking, so Cliff’s got his work cut out for him—with a little help from Betts.
The mystery isn’t just Derek’s death. There are the deaths of the three ghosts to solve so they can go on. Like Betts, readers have to keep a close eye on the details to solve the murders.
This is the fifth book in the series. Betts is able to reconcile her feelings for Jerome and Cliff and realize the responsibility behind seeing the ghosts and fixing their problems. Broken Rope is a town you’d want to visit (whether or not you could see the ghosts).
Look for recipes for onion, corn and tomato salad, cauliflower au gratin, broccoli rice casserole, sweet and sour asparagus, and onion rings at the back of the book. Shelton also writes the Farmers Market mysteries (six to date)—no ghosts there, just good mysteries.
A Dish Best Served Cold by Rosie Genova
Review by Sandra Murphy
Victoria Rienzi’s only been back at her family’s Casa Lido restaurant for the summer, and already she’s been involved with two dead bodies. She’s a fiction writer of the Bernardo detective series, but has come home to research the workings of a restaurant for her newest book, based loosely on her family.
So far, all she gets to do in the kitchen is chop onions, tomatoes, and garlic, wash parsley and basil, and fold napkins. It also, for better or worse, puts her in close proximity of her ex-boyfriend, Tim. She’s over him—really: it’s been eight years since he broke her heart, and it’s time to move on. There’s Cal, the sometimes handyman, always handsome and mysterious, who is willing to help her with the moving on part. If only Cal didn’t have so many secrets.
The restaurant is a family place, run by the iron fist of Nonna (the grandmother). She’s firmly behind a romance between Vic and Cal, while Mom is still in the Tim camp. Vic thinks that between writing the book and all the veggie chopping, she hasn’t got time to worry about it.
The Labor Day weekend is near, which is always the last hurrah with tourists. This year, it’s also the 70th anniversary of the restaurant’s opening, so a huge outdoor party is planned—just as a hurricane heads their way. Halfway through the festivities, Stinky Pete shows up for a handout. He’s a mostly homeless guy, camping out here and there, mooching food and always in search of wine. Nonna sends him off with a plate of food, but he’s later seen with a second bag that looks much heavier—did someone give him wine?
After the storm, there’s only one fatality: Pete’s body is found in the carousel house. No one knows what he was doing there or how he got in. It’s assumed he needed shelter from the storm, passed out, and fell face first into the shallow water that flooded the building. Vic isn’t so sure. Of course, after the last dead body, she promised her cop brother she’d stop snooping—but if she just happens to run across information while researching, who can blame her?
Sofia, Vic’s sister-in-law, loves a good mystery. Sofia and Vic find motives for Pete’s murder (never mind that the police have declared it an accidental death). The question is, do the motives come from Pete’s past, the present, or a combination of the two? Along the way Vic finds a long-lost relative, friends who turn on her, mysterious strangers, and even a reason to distrust a priest.
The first book in the series is Murder and Marinara, followed by The Wedding Soup Murder, reviewed for KRL. In this book, readers are treated to more of Cal’s background, his trauma over Hurricane Katrina, Tim’s true feelings, and delightful time spent with Vic and Sofia as they ask questions under the guise of research for her book. The Jersey Shore comes to life as readers join tourists on the boardwalk, hide from the storm, and enjoy the best Italian food around. Can’t you just smell the saltiness of the surf?
Recipes for antipasto, Italian vinaigrette, Bolognese sauce and a cold pasta sauce with tomatoes and arugula are in the back of the book. Mangia!
Dream a Little Scream: A Dream Club Mystery By Mary Kennedy
Review by Cynthia Chow
Business consultant Taylor Blake initially moved from Chicago to Savannah as a temporary measure to help her sister pull her vintage candy store out of the red. Instead, Taylor found a new home—and a new career—as part owner of their Oldies but Goodies candy and café. Taylor has even become a full-fledged member and believer of her sister’s Dream Club, where their nighttime dreams are analyzed and interpreted for their daily lives.
As a promotional event, Taylor and Ali agreed to host a book signing for cookbook author and celebrity chef Sonia Scott. Accompanying Sonia is her entourage, whose romantic entanglements are more appropriate for a soap opera than a cooking show. When the signing is cut short due to Sonia’s apparent allergic reaction, the sisters’ store is imperiled as customers flee, fearing that the goodies were responsible. Taylor herself worries that one of their newest Dream Club members may have had a hand in the death, as Etta Mae Beasley was not shy about calling Sonia a recipe thief.
Fortunately for Taylor, she has the help of her former boyfriend, private investigator Noah Chandler. In Atlanta their workaholic tendencies prevented them from ever becoming too involved, but now that Noah has left the FBI and Taylor’s fled the corporate rat race, they may have a chance at more. Fellow Dream Club member Sara Rutledge lends her own journalistic skills to the investigation, but what proves just as helpful are the members’ encyclopedia-like knowledge of local history and its residents.
As in any club, there are personalities that mesh and personalities that grate, and Taylor is coming to the point where she believes that there may need to be some culling of the members. Dorien is obliviously abrasive, caustic, and self-centered, and her forcefulness manages to push out rather than welcome newbies.
Theirs is a group based on trust, as they share their darkest and most personal dreams with one another. The symbolic interpretations of their dreams proved to be surprisingly effective in solving two previous murders, so readers should expect that their subconscious minds will once again work overtime to provide clues for the latest mystery. The humor is low-key but always present, and never at the expense of the Dream Club’s beliefs. Readers will enjoy this unique exploration of dream interpretation, especially when combined with diverse characters and a compelling mystery.
To enter to win a copy of all 4 food Penguins, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “August food,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen August 15, 2015. 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.
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