by Sandra Murphy
& Cynthia Chow
This week we have reviews & giveaways of 4 food mysteries to whet your reading appetite-Dim Sum of All Fears: A Noodle Shop Mystery by Vivien Chien, Goodbye Cruller World: A Deputy Donut Mystery by Ginger Bolton, Stabbed in the Baklava: A Kitchen Kebab Mystery by Tina Kashian, and Premeditated Peppermint: Amish Candy Shop Mystery by Amanda Flower. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 4 books, along with links you can use to purchase them.
Dim Sum of All Fears: A Noodle Shop Mystery by Vivien Chien
Review by Cynthia Chow
Working in her family’s Cleveland Ho-Lee Noodle House restaurant was only supposed to be a temporary measure until Lana Lee could figure out exactly what she wanted to do with her life. It’s too bad that her parents didn’t get the memo, as they just announced that they are leaving for Taiwan in three days and Lana is to be in charge of running the business until their return. She still hoped to find time to fit in a job interview between restaurant duties, but that proves impossible when the new store owners in Asia Village Isabelle and Brandon Yeoh are murdered. Lana’s parents, not to mention the possible romantic interest Detective Adam Trudeau, warn Lana from risking herself by becoming involved, but her brief friendship with Isabelle makes that impossible. Lana’s bossy older sister isn’t shy about inserting her own opinions either, but that just makes Lana all the more stubborn to investigate.
Along with her enthusiastic best friend and roommate Megan, Lana quickly learns that the Yeohs had their share of secrets, which included multiple ex-wives, siblings, and addictions. Led by the Mahjong Matrons and the other regular diners at the Ho-Lee Noodle House, gossip about the Yeoh couple runs rampant with multiple women claiming ownership over the Yeohs’ City Charm Souvenirs store. Dealing with her own older sister’s very ruffled feathers will be easier than tracking down Brandon’s larcenous activities, which has Lana visiting casinos, banks, and tracking down a man with very distinct William Shatner hair.
This second in the series proves to be as delightful as its debut, which introduced readers to a mixed-race heroine who struggles against the traditional roles she sees in her future. Lana may declare that working in her family’s restaurant is a brief time-out until she finds a “real” career, but she can’t deny how much she loves noodles or how effective she is at running the business. This search for a purpose and path in her life is as compelling as the mystery, which becomes more and more complicated as new players enter the field and Brandon’s larcenous flaws emerge.
Fans of the book trilogy and film Crazy Rich Asians will find so much to adore in this heroine, who is still learning how to balance her individuality with her mother’s culture. While Lana embraces the American dreams of pursuing happiness and individuality, her mother knows exactly what her daughter needs and only needs to listen. The hints of romance only further add to the intrigue, as the elusive detective may have his own challenges to face. This very funny novel couldn’t be more timely with its depiction of Asian-American culture, which succeeds in presenting an easily relatable and very likable heroine.
Goodbye Cruller World: A Deputy Donut Mystery by Ginger Bolton
Review by Cynthia Chow
As delighted as she was to have the opportunity to create a donut wall for the wedding reception of Dressed to Kill Clothing store owner Jenn Zeeland, Emily Westhill wonders if the ceremony should even take place. After the prospective bride and her sister have a contentious argument in their Fallingbrook, Wisconsin, boutique the day before the wedding, only Jenn’s declaration that it’s too late to cancel seems to be compelling her to walk down the aisle. Emily’s predictions for a long-lasting marriage are even less optimistic after she meets the obnoxious and demanding groomzilla, but she at least thought that it would last through the evening. Unfortunately, it’s not long after midnight that Emily discovers Roger Banchen’s body behind her donut wall, collapsed next to a dish covered in suspicious, non-sugary white power.
As the co-owner of Deputy Donuts, no one knows more about her donuts and the proper toppings than Emily, who entered the donut business after the death of her policeman husband. The Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation’s lead Detective Yvonne Passenmath unreasonably loathes Emily, though, which means that any input she provides is guaranteed to be ignored. With her retired police chief father-in-law as a business partner and having mended her friendship with her late husband’s former partner, Emily at least has the investigative support to clear Deputy Donuts of any involvement while bringing closure to the distraught, if not exactly mournful, new widow.
Until I googled images of donut walls, I never knew such astounding and mouth-watering décor existed. Emily’s definitely chosen on-trend profession, although donuts of course never truly go out of style. Detective Passenmath’s closed-mindedness forces Emily to other avenues of investigations, and there’s no shortage of questionable avenues, witnesses, or those with reasons to resent the man with questionable resources. This second in the series has all of the traits cozy mystery lovers adore; a store cat walked on a halter, delicious recipes, and a witty heroine with good-natured match-making compulsions. Yet adding so much depth to this is Emily’s guilt over not being the dispatcher on call when her husband was killed on duty, and whether she is truly able to move on. Emily’s continual pursuit for answers, even as she begins to emotionally move on in her life, assures for even more intrigue and compelling adventures in the future.
Stabbed in the Baklava: A Kitchen Kebab Mystery by Tina Kashian
Review by Cynthia Chow
Although attorney Lucy Berberian only planned to stay in her Jersey hometown of Ocean Crest until she found another job, she has found herself settling in and taking over as manager for her family’s Mediterranean restaurant. So when hotel heiress Scarlet Westwood arrives at the Kebab Kitchen with her wedding planner asking to see Lucy, she jumps at the chance to cater the Philadelphia socialite’s wedding. Not only is Scarlet’s new fiancé directing a movie scene in Ocean Crest, but Bradford Papadopoulos is a big fan of the Kebab’s delicacies. Lucy never catered an event before, but almost as big a challenge will be keeping the wedding a secret from the tabloids. The groom is obviously thirty or so years older than his celebrity bridezillas, but it is the best man and fraternity brother Henry Simms who drunkenly embarrasses the party and the young bridesmaids. So, of course, it is Henry who Lucy discovers laid out in their catering van, although not so predictably fatally shish-kebabed with one of their own utensils.
Although Lucy’s semi-retired parents are grateful that at least this time the victim wasn’t poisoned to death by their food, evidence quickly mounts implicating their head chef Azad Zakarian. Azad may have broken her heart so many years ago, but they’ve since mended their relationship into an effective working relationship. Whether it becomes something more depends not just on the attractive bike shop owner next door, but on keeping Azad out of prison. Unfortunately, the investigating detective has a distinct bias having been cheated upon by Lucy’s sister back in high school, and “Clingy Calvin” has a very unforgiving memory. Which makes Lucy’s efforts all the more precarious, as after being encouraged by both her parents and her crime television-obsessed best friend Katie Watson, Lucy and her accomplices do a little break-and-entering, steal evidence, and risk being kidnapped by a killer.
This is a novel overflowing with suspects who hated the victim, so Lucy will have her hands full sifting through those cheated out of the ethically-challenged banker. Lucy pretty much throws the rules out the window to protect those she loves, which makes her actions sympathetic when one considers what she has to lose. Katie is an exuberant ally, made all the more fun through her policeman husband’s resigned acceptance. Readers will be grateful for the recipes included at the end of the novel (Lucy’s Baklava, Azad’s Prized Shish Kabobs, Angela’s Stuffed Grape Leaves with Meat and Rice-Derevee Dolma), as sprinkled throughout the book are mouth-watering descriptions of the step-by-step laborious process of making baklava, stuffed grape leaves derevee dolma, and phyllo dough cheese boeregs. The challenge of this mystery will not be just in solving the murder before Lucy, but in managing to get through to the end without first stopping for a quick trip to the nearest Greek or Armenian restaurant. This novel should be at the top of the to-be-read list for culinary mystery readers, not to mention those who appreciate their reads full of intrigue, romance, and humor.
Premeditated Peppermint: Amish Candy Shop Mystery by Amanda Flower
Review by Sandra Murphy
Bailey King used to work as a chocolatier in New York. Then there was this scandal, a secret boyfriend, what looked like preferential treatment, and the whole thing blew up. Luckily, she could retreat to her grandmother’s to regroup.
Grandmother is Amish. Bailey uses Grandmother’s recipes but sometimes adds her own twist. It looks like Bailey’s found a new career, a home, and a pretty hunky sheriff’s deputy boyfriend.
For the big holiday fair, Bailey’s created white chocolate peppermint candy and fudge. As much as she likes peppermint, by the time they’ve made enough to last the week, she’s getting sick of the smell of it. No one knew how well it would sell, meaning there’s a lot more to make.
When a TV crew shows up to tape a show, led by none other than Bailey’s ex who’s convinced the producer Bailey knew all about the taping and rekindling their former romance, all Bailey wants to do is hide. On the other hand, it is good publicity for the shop, if they can leave out the rekindling part.
Rocky’s the producer of the show. When Rocky’s found strangled, Eric is the natural suspect. After all, he was there with the body when it was discovered. Eric asks for Bailey’s help to clear his name and then promptly does what he always does, he lies. When he’s finally convinced 1) this is serious, 2) he could go to jail, 3) it would hurt his career, he begins to cooperate a bit. There are other suspects—an Amish man seen in the area at the time, someone from her past, and a random crime. Mostly, it’s Eric.
This is the third book in the series. Bailey is settling into life as a small town chocolatier nicely. Her relationship with the deputy is one to envy although his mother, delightful as she is with her pet pig Jethro, is a bit much to take sometimes. Jethro is a charmer. By the end of the book, readers will see big changes are coming into her life.
To get in the mood, there’s a recipe for Bailey’s Peppermint Bark at the back of the book and an excerpt of the next book, Toxic Toffee. Assaulted Caramel, and Lethal Licorice were the first two books, reviewed here. Enjoy them all pre-holiday or put them on your gift wish list.
To enter to win copies of all 4 books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “appetite,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 6, 2018. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address (so if you win we can get the book sent right out to you), and if via comment please include your email address. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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