by Cynthia Chow
This week we have a review of the latest Cook-Off Mystery by Devon Delaney, along with an interesting interview with Devon. Details at the end of the post on how to enter to win a copy of the book, and a link to order it from Amazon and one from an indie bookstore.
Double Chocolate Cookie Murder: A Cook-Off Mystery By Devon Delaney
Review by Cynthia Chow
As the holiday season approaches, Maine’s frequent cooking competition champion Sherry Oliveri is perfecting her snazzy sweet potato panzanella recipe. First though, she has the honor of being a judge for the local newspaper’s Story for Glory Cookie Bake-off. Bakers are challenged to present compelling origin stories for their recipes that match the tastiness of their creations. While Sherry’s own baking skills are admittedly lacking, her collection of other cook-off wins more than qualifies her to judge cookies as well as the accompanying heart-warming tales. After inadvertently inviting her contestant Crosby Banks to a Thanksgiving leftovers dinner, her favorite former high school home economics teacher discloses that his tropical cookie bar entry was first designed to win over his wife. That undeniably emotional anecdote is not the one he shares as being the inspiration for his contest entry, though, which already was lacking in both technique and creativity. The more deserving win is upended when all of the prizes go missing, only to be found in the car near Crosby’s own corpse.
Weighed down with an anchor and dumped just off of the Augustin Marina, Crosby is soon revealed by the police to have had more than a few secrets. With his real name being Crosby Currier, his family has long ties within Hillsboro County that include an aging father and an angry ex-wife. Declaring that she will stay uninvolved – despite four previous encounters with murder investigations – Sherry still becomes the target of several attacks and threats. Even her possible boyfriend Don Johnstone has his boat nearly sunk, which does at least keep their romance lively. For additional support, Sherry has her sister Marla in town for a holiday visit, although it seems that Marla may be as much vacationing as she is escaping from her struggling marriage. Their father may refuse to hold Black Friday sales within their Ruggery family store, but they otherwise continue to prepare for their favorite seasonal celebrations and cooking events. Along with Marla, Don, and Nutmeg State of Mind newspaper food writer Patti Mellitt, Sherry will track down the secrets that led to broken hearts, betrayed marriages, and even murder.
This fifth in the series may only share a few of Sherry’s prizewinning recipes, but it doesn’t hold back on descriptions of mouth-watering cookies and holiday meals. Perfectly building up an envious New England winter season, the novel will have readers vicariously wishing for a chilly Maine holiday. The mystery constantly zigs and zags with red herrings and numerous suspects, and the author has the challenge of introducing a number of new and familiar characters. It doesn’t take long for even new readers to the series to catch up and feel at home with the cozy town, and details about the challenges of both cooking for and judging cooking competitions prove compelling. This is a very fun and rollicking mystery that stays light-hearted even as the case gets more complicated, building towards a get-all-of-the-suspects-together-in-a-room conclusion. Cooking, holiday celebrations, and moving family drama all make for the perfect end-of-the-year escape.
Interview with Devon Delaney:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Devon: I have been writing my mysteries since 2017, but I have done various writing projects since I was in grade school. I entered and won two food related essays contests in my thirties. Ode To Pork Passion was an essay about my love of pork for which I won a trip to New Orleans.
KRL: When did your first novel come out?
KRL: What was it called?
Devon: Expiration Date.
KRL: Would you tell us a little about it?
Devon: My series is based on my experiences as an amateur cooking contester which I’ve been participating in for over twenty years. My main character’s favorite hobby is cooking contesting. She also works at her father’s ruggery. Inspired by another of my hobbies, hooking rugs, I figured out a way to include details of that hobby in the series as well. For various reasons there are murders associated with cook-offs she’s in and she’s compelled, for one reason or another, to provide the investigations sleuthing skills she wasn’t aware she possessed.
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense, and if not, what else have you written?
Devon: I have always loved reading cozy mysteries and I knew that was the genre of book I wanted to write. I would also love to write children’s books, a bucket list item.
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series?
Devon: I adore the town my family moved to about nine years ago. It is quaint and quirky and chock full of activities, an important quality I borrow from to keep my characters active and varied. My town is full of interesting people who I borrow characteristics from to shape my characters. I modified my story’s town in some ways to replicate my town physically, while, on the other hand, be smaller so most everyone knows everyone, and secrets are hard to hold on to.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to experience from your work?
Devon: A combination. I write to entertain both my readers and myself. I also enjoy weaving in small social messages of importance to me, such as suggestively how to be a more environmentally friendly home gardener. I like to share my love of volunteering at the neighboring towns community garden where less fortunate children are able to learn how their food is grown and learn simple things like how lima beans grow in pods. I hope to inspire others to take small steps to make the world a better place.
KRL: How cool! Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Devon: I enjoy writing most every morning, on the early side, for two to three hours. My mind is the freshest and the day starts out on my terms that way.
KRL: Do you outline?
Devon: After my second book I’ve become a detailed outliner. I don’t necessarily stick to every detail, but I find it’s becoming an invaluable step in my writing process. Not the funnest step, mind you, but incredibly helpful in the long run.
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Devon: Between 8 and 11 in the morning. Second choice is 2 in the afternoon.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Devon: I was very lucky and got a contract in a month. I worked very hard on my pitch, with the help of my agent, and presented it to publishers when I was certain I put my best foot forward. My book’s theme is unique and backed by my years of successful cooking contesting. I have many articles written about me and was able to provide those links which I’m sure helped catch the eye of my publisher.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Devon: When I began my journey of fulfilling my bucket list item of writing a cozy mystery, I was told by more people than I can count to prepare for rejection after rejection. I showed them and myself even in my fifties I could begin a new chapter in my working career. When I read through my contract offer, I admit it was a bit like, be careful what you wish for, because writing a book under a deadline is not an easy task and I had suddenly changed my whole daily schedule long-term with the stroke of an electronic pen. Incredibly fulfilling, yes, sometimes frustrating and exhausting, yes.
KRL: Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?
Devon: My first book signing I did was in Maine, and no one told me I had to speak to the gathered crowd. To this day I can still feel the panic that quickly set in, but I muddled through. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
KRL: Future writing goals?
Devon: I would love to write a children’s story book incorporating some of my recipes and a children’s mystery series.
KRL: Writing heroes?
Devon: Too many to name. I do love a writer who has lived life, i.e., in his or her fifties or older. I enjoy the seasoned perspective. Age equals wisdom and experience.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Devon: All kinds. I really enjoy researching for my books. For example: I visited our town hall to see the layout of the building, so I got the architecture description correct. For another book I learned about the mechanics of boats, knowledge which only sat in my short-term memory until I wrote the words I needed, then it was gone. I do Google searches to double-check facts. For my latest book I bought a book of Irish myths and folklore from Amazon to study. Can’t tell you why. No spoilers.
KRL: What do you read?
Devon: Cozy mysteries, biographies, cookbooks top my list. Occasionally I browse through the series, “(Fill in the Blank) For Dummies” to learn something new. And I love magazines for short period of time reading.
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Devon: Ted Lasso, PBS historical Dramas, sports, cheesy movies like The Notebook and Titanic.
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Devon: Boring and trite, but here I go – write what you know. That works for me and makes the process oh-so-much less stressful. Also, a popular answer: write something every day. Just put words to paper. Take a writing class after you have an idea for a book or essay or poem. You’ll be surprised what you can implement into your project that you might forget on your own.
KRL: Anything you would like to add?
Devon: Yes! I feel as if my books are improving as my series continues. I continue to compete in cook-offs, giving me more fodder for my stories. Weaving reality with fiction has become a wonderful formula for my books. I am growing as a writer, and I hope my readers grow along with me and my characters. It’s been a whirlwind of a journey, getting five books out in about two and a half years. I am beyond thrilled to share my work with anyone who wants to be entertained, challenged and slightly educated.
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Devon: I am the oldest person on my USTA tennis team.
KRL: Lastly, what is your favorite chocolate Halloween treat?
Devon: My favorite Halloween treat was one my kids used to get, and I would snatch it out of their bags. They would trick or treat at the author Peter Benchley’s (Jaws) house that was decorated throughout as a haunted house. If you made it through the incredibly scary rooms your bravery was rewarded with oversized candy bars. I would grab their giant Snickers bars and slice then up crossways and snack on them throughout the day. (Long answer to a short question!)
KRL: Website and social media?
To enter to win a copy of Double Chocolate Cookie Murder, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “double chocolate,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 30, 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 WILL TAKE MUCH LONGER THAN USUAL FOR WINNERS TO GET THEIR BOOKS DUE TO THE CURRENT CRISIS.
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. Be sure to check out our new mystery podcast too with mystery short stories, and first chapters read by local actors. A new Halloween episode went up this week and another one goes up next week.
You can use these links to purchase the book or click here. If you have ad blocker on you may not see the Amazon link:
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.