by Cynthia Chow
& Sandra Murphy
This week we have a group of 3 mystery novels from Kensington-Murder at Marble House by Alyssa Maxwell, To Fudge or Not To Fudge by Nancy Coco, and French Pastry Murder by Leslie Meier. Details on how to enter to win all 3 at the end of this post, and links to purchase each book where a portion goes to help support KRL.
Murder at Marble House By Alyssa Maxwell
Review by Sandra Murphy
This is a Golden Age mystery so no cell phones, no computers, no cars–women don’t even have the right to vote. They also have no say about whom they’ll marry. Just ask Consuela Vanderbilt. Her mother has made her a virtual prisoner in her own home until she agrees to marry a poor, but titled man she’s never met. After all, think of the bragging rights–“my daughter, the Countess.”
Poor relation Em has a little more leeway in the marriage department. She has a meager living and is included in some of the Vanderbilt events. After all, they are a charitable family. She tries to help Consuela but apparently not quickly enough to suit anyone involved. First there’s a luncheon complete with a fortune teller who is bound to explain that the tarot cards agree Consuela should marry the Count. Em is persuaded by Consuela’s mother, to try to convince her that the marriage is in the best interests of them all. Although Em makes the effort, her heart isn’t in it.
When the fortune teller is found dead before she can do the first reading, Consuela is sent to her room so she won’t be exposed to such a terrible occurrence. Em is sent to console her but Consuela isn’t to be found. There can be no publicity, even though she may have been kidnapped and what would the Count think?
Em is persuaded to look for Consuela. This can prove difficult as there are restrictions on travel for women–no rowing a boat, no being out alone or late in the evening. She’s able to enlist her brother and a not-quite-former suitor to help. And then there’s the policeman…Em is torn between what’s proper and what she really wants, independence, but at what cost? A second murder only emphasizes the limitations under which women live.
There are the rich, the poor relations, the servant class and the unfortunate poor–none of them has much in the way of freedom. This book reminds the reader how the rich are different but not as fortunate as they’d like. If you’d like a change of pace from the modern mystery, the plot and characters of this book are up to the task of keeping the reader entertained and engaged.
This is the second book in the series. The first is Murder at the Breakers.
Use this link to purchase this book and a portion goes to help support KRL:
To Fudge or Not To Fudge By Nancy Coco
Review by Cynthia Chow
When Allie McMurphy returned to Mackinac Island to take over and restore her family’s Historic McMurphy Hotel and Fudge Shop, she also needed to establish the reputation and quality of the confections. Allie’s rescue puppy Marshmallow’s discovery of body parts all over the island isn’t helping to repair her reputation as a “fudgie” outsider. While the police attempt to uncover the identity of the first toe retrieved by the bichon/poodle mix, Allie is coerced by her mentor, Chef Peter Thomas, to replace an entrant on his new reality cooking competition show, Fudge Not, Lest Thee Be Fudged. Competitors are called the “cast” and not “contestants” which indicates the level of realism on the show. When one of the cast is poisoned by Allie’s fudge, she’s talked into working undercover while appearing to be under suspicion to lull the killer into making a mistake.
The show films at night, so Allie is able to work during the day at the McMurphy with the aid of her best friend, two assistants, and a fortuitous new hire. Standing in Allie’s way of building a successful career are a jealous rival chef, an intrusive local reporter and the wary cast of aspiring actors on Peter’s cooking competition.
Delectable fudge recipes are interspersed throughout the novel. Allie is able to share her considerable knowledge of proper confectionary techniques with the history of fudge-making. Since Allie stands out as such a likable and engaging character, one can’t help but become frustrated and sympathize when suspicion falls on her. A scheme to have Allie wear an ankle bracelet would seem to open the police department up to a civil lawsuit or two. In the debut novel, All Fudged Up, Allie’s mother served as a negative voice to discourage Allie’s return to Mackinac Island. Here, she reveals a more vulnerable side as she shares her personal reasons for leaving. A romantic triangle never feels manipulative as Allie has justifiable reasons to hesitate before committing to either suitor.
The most fun comes on the set of the reality show as the cast follows their assigned roles and they attempt to create pre-planned confections such as bacon and Swiss cheese fudge. This is a charming and funny culinary mystery that parodies reality show competitions and is led by a sweet heroine, eccentric but likable characters, and a skillfully crafted plot that speeds towards an unpredictable conclusion.
Use this link to purchase this book and a portion goes to help support KRL:
French Pastry Murder By Leslie Meier
Review by Sandra Murphy
Lucy Stone’s daughter, Elizabeth, is in Paris, something Lucy always dreamed of doing. Why then, is she calling and crying on a regular basis? Elizabeth hates Paris, hates her apartment, hates her job, can’t speak French and hates her roommate. Lucy thinks it all boils down to one thing—Elizabeth is homesick.
Sue’s daughter, Sidra, is now a producer on Norah Hemming’s talk show and gets Sue and friends tickets for the show. They are shocked to be pulled out of the audience and rewarded for their work with the Hat and Mitten Fund. For caring about kids who aren’t dressed warmly enough, Norah rewards the four (and spouses) an all-expense paid trip to Paris, complete with cooking lessons with a known pastry chef. Sue is excited to work with the chef, Lucy to see Elizabeth and the others are just excited to go on the trip.
The apartment they’re sharing in Paris is small, so small in fact, that Lucy and Bill end up sleeping in the living room. That’s a little awkward when someone gets up early or goes to bed late but it’s Paris. Elizabeth is glad to see them but is still unhappy.
Pam and Ted are able to connect with an old friend, Richard, an American living in Paris. Sue is interested in shopping and food. Sylvie, the hated roommate, seems nice enough to Lucy but then Lucy finds out Sylvie is prone to bringing men home for the night—and not necessarily the same man twice.
Chef Larry’s first pastry lesson is an apple tart. Sue is far less than impressed since she already knows how to make that. It’s not long before the four couples begin to squabble—where to go, what to do, what to eat—and the extreme closeness of the apartment doesn’t help.
The second lesson also fails to impress Sue since Chef Larry announces they will make pate a choux, also known as cream puffs. She suffers through the lesson as Chef Larry makes his dough into swan shapes. After all the pastries, no one is in the mood for a big lunch and it’s raining. As they debate where to go next, Lucy realizes, she’s left her umbrella in the classroom.
She’s able to find the umbrella but also finds Chef Larry on the floor, stabbed with one of his own knives. He’s alive but it’s touch and go if he’ll stay that way.
The police investigate and Bob, Rachel’s husband is being a royal pain. Back home, he’s a lawyer and can’t figure out why he has no influence in Paris. Passports are taken while the investigation goes on and all members of the group panic at the thought they might not be able to leave on the appointed day. The US Embassy is of no help.
Besides Larry’s attack, there’s a strike that shuts down public transportation, a conference regarding Egypt at the hotel, a mysterious man who seems to follow Lucy, as well as strange goings-on at the hotel with Elizabeth’s co-workers and roommate. Elizabeth’s love life is in question as the kind of boyfriend she had has been out of communication. There are rumors of black market sales of luxury items too.
When Sylvie is murdered, Lucy’s protective mom instincts go into high gear as she worries about Elizabeth. Everyone is worried about getting home again and the cost of being detained if the murder isn’t solved.
The plot is complicated as all the threads are pulled together in the end. Lucy is right in the middle of things as always. Bill, who has been known to be a bit chauvinistic, has grown into a more accepting person.
I only wish everyone had been happier to be in Paris. There was a lot of complaining about the apartment, prices, the strike, food, the cooking lessons (Sue wanted to come home a gourmet chef, having learned to cook difficult dishes, never mind the rest of the group were nowhere near that level) and the anxiety over when they would be able to leave. Nothing in Paris was like home, which is the point of traveling to another country. I felt the Tinker’s Cove visitors missed the point.
In any series, it’s hard for the writer to know how to age the characters. This series has let the kids grow, both in age and personality, as shown by Sidra arranging for the women to be surprised and rewarded with the trip. Reading the latest book is like a trip to Tinker’s Cove to catch up with old friends.
Use this link to purchase the book and a portion goes to help support KRL:
To enter to win a copy of all 3 Kensington’s, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Kensington,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 1, 2014. 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.