by Cynthia Chow
& Sandra Murphy
We end October with a fun group of new mysteries from Penguin authors, and most tie in to food and drink in some way-Crepe Factor: A Scrapbooking Mystery By Laura Childs and Terrie Farley Moran, Seeds of Deception: An Orchard Mystery Series by Sheila Connolly, Tangled Up in Brew: Brewing Trouble Series by Joyce Tremel, and Killing Thyme: A Spice Shop Mystery by Leslie Budewitz. 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.
Crepe Factor: A Scrapbooking Mystery by Laura Childs and Terrie Farley Moran
Review by Sandra Murphy
It’s time for the Winter Marketplace in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Carmela and her BFF Ava are busy at their own shops (scrapbooking and voodoo for tourists). Still, there’s always time to party, especially where there’s food and wine.
The last thing they expect to see is their friend, restaurateur and Carmela’s former date, Quigg, in an argument with another man. Their voices get louder. Rather than throwing a punch, the stranger throws a bowl of gumbo at the sign on Quigg’s booth and stomps away.
It turns out the other man is Martin Lash, food critic—and is he ever critical! It’s rumored he got a restaurant’s reputation ruined before their opening day. He’s never posted anything but hateful reviews. The locals know better than to believe him, but the tourists who bring in a lot of money, don’t.
Once Quigg has settled down and cleanup of his booth has started, Carmela and Ava resume their travels from one booth to the next. Ava is fond of leather and spots a spectacular corset. When she steps into the booth to try it on, the whole booth starts to shimmy and shake. As all the booth’s goods slide to the ground and the tent threatens to tumble down, a man comes out from behind the tent. It’s Martin Lash, and he has a professional chef-sized kitchen fork in his neck.
Before anyone can grasp what’s happened, Lash has bled out. Of all the cops in New Orleans, the detective in charge is Edgar Babcock, Carmela’s love interest. He’s none too happy to see her in the vicinity of another dead body and even less pleased when he discovers Quigg is his prime suspect.
Caught between the two men, Carmela is in a bind. Quigg wants her help solving the case and proving his innocence. Babcock wants her to stay far, far away from his investigation—out of trouble and out of danger. It’s a fine line between helping a friend and keeping her love life intact.
This is the fourteenth book in the Scrapbooking Mystery series which can be read out of order, but it’s more fun to start at the beginning and binge read. Moony and Squirrel make a welcome return. They are memorable characters for sure. Shamus pops in for a few scenes as well. Ava is her usual over-the-top self. Taking Ava along to a formal tea might not have been the best choice for Carmela but things turned out well, or close to it. Carmela’s dogs, Pooh and Boo, make several appearances and leave readers wanting more. Speaking of more, look at the bonus material that’s included. There’s also a nice surprise at the end of this tale…
Find scrapbooking tips and recipes at the back of the book—mini cranberry crab cakes, Cajun pork roast, crock-pot lemon chicken, crock-pot Cajun pecans, caramel corn (Ava’s favorite), apricot bbq ribs, cranberry muffins, baked avocado egg rolls, and Pooh and Boo’s favorite dog cookies.
Laura Childs writes the Cackleberry Club mysteries (6) (excerpt of Egg Drop Dead, coming in December 2016) and the Tea Shop series (17). The TBR (to be read) stack just soared!
Seeds of Deception: An Orchard Mystery Series by Sheila Connolly
Review by Sandra Murphy
Meg and Seth have finally tied the knot. It was more of a party than a wedding, and now that seasonal work is at a lull, they’re finally talking about a honeymoon. With the itinerary loosely planned, they’re ready to take a week or two off from work. There’s a quick visit from Meg’s mom and dad before they go.
While Meg and Seth are enjoying Monticello, her parents are horrified to find the body of their caretaker in the yard when they get home. Someone’s been in the house, but it doesn’t appear that anything was taken. Meg and Seth detour and try to help.
The police chief has a grudge against Meg’s dad from years ago, so he’s not likely to cut them any slack during the investigation. When Meg has been involved in murders before, she was on her home turf. Now she’s out of her depth where she doesn’t know any of the suspects. Add to that, her parents would rather ignore the whole thing and treat Meg like a child rather than an adult who’s on her honeymoon and there are a lot of complications to overcome.
Finding the comfort level for each of her parents and Seth where investigating is necessary is like walking a tightrope for Meg. When Arthur, her dad’s law partner, is accosted in the office, it becomes apparent that the handyman’s death wasn’t a planned murder, but that the poor man was in the right place at the wrong time. Evidently, someone is looking for something incriminating that’s related to the lawyer’s work. Meg’s father isn’t a criminal lawyer, so what could be so important?
Watching how her parents interact gives Meg more insight into how she wants her own marriage to work. She and Seth have known each other for a while, loved each other, and got married, but the question on her mind is “now what?” It takes some negotiation and a lot of honesty for two people who were single for a long time to now blend their lives and families. It’s a big change, even without dead bodies.
As always, Connolly shows readers life in a small town, where everyone knows each other and help is just a phone call away. There’s a marked difference between her parent’s marriage and what Meg wants. It’s a nice change of pace to see Meg and Seth out of their element and working together to solve the murder.
The books can be read out of order, but then you’d miss the wedding! This is the tenth in the Apple Orchard series. To make the TBR (to be read) stack even higher, Connolly also writes the museum series with Nell and her FBI hubby (7) and the County Cork mysteries (4) with Maura who went to Ireland for a visit and instead inherited a pub and decided to stay.
Tangled Up in Brew: Brewing Trouble Series by Joyce Tremel
Review by Sandra Murphy
Maxine ‘Max’ O’Hara and her chef/boyfriend/former hockey player/friend, Jake Lambert have signed up for the Three Rivers Brew and Burgers Festival. Max owns Allegheny Brew House and hopes to have one of her craft beers win the coveted Golden Stein. Even if it doesn’t, the publicity will be a good thing. Jake has entered his best burger, too.
Too bad Reginald Mobley is one of the judges, a last minute substitution because of a family emergency for another judge. He’s been known to pan restaurants in every review, sometimes putting them out of business. Surprisingly, at the Festival, he has one brewer he likes. That would be Dwayne who is less than popular with any of the other breweries. When he first started out, he worked for brewers, asked a lot of questions, and then stole their recipes to open his own brew house.
When Mobley reaches Max’s booth, she has three beers available for tasting. His comments about them are as usual, he hates them, but the third beer, the safe blend more for casual drinkers, Mobley spits out. That will take some doing to overcome from a publicity standpoint! It’s even worse at the burger tasting. Mobley no more than tastes Jake’s special burger when he gets ill and falls dead.
There are not too many mourners—actually, only Dwayne, mostly because he hasn’t a chance of winning the Golden Stein now. Max has to wonder, what did Dwayne have on Mobley? Because it sure wasn’t the superb taste of his beer that got him a good review. Even his wife doesn’t seem all that upset at the news.
Max’s dad is a police detective, although he can’t really be the lead investigator on this case since he has a vested interest through both Max and Jake. His new protégé, Vincent Falk, is determined to prove Max and/or Jake poisoned Mobley. Considering they had no motive other than Mobley spitting out Max’s beer, the theory is thin on facts. Max is used to hearing about cases from her dad, but this time he’s clammed up.
Suspects would include most anyone who met Mobley, so that doesn’t help narrow the field. Still, Max wants to try to figure out the puzzle to save not only her business but her faith in Jake. When a second death occurs, it’s time to pick up the pace before anyone else is in the killer’s sights.
This is the second book in the Brewing Trouble series. Information about brewing beer and how accurate the recipe, temperature, and ingredients are scattered throughout without disrupting the mystery. With so many suspects, it allows the reader to pick and choose and change opinions of who did it before the big reveal. Recipes are included for Jake’s brew burger, apple cinnamon muffins, caramel pecan brownies, and tomato basil chicken. Look for A Room with a Brew, coming soon.
Killing Thyme: A Spice Shop Mystery by Leslie Budewitz
Review by Cynthia Chow
The owner of the Spice Shop in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, Pepper Reece, is thrilled for her mother’s return from Costa Rica for a housewarming/birthday celebration. Pepper’s best friend Kristen just renovated the home they grew up in, and Grace House holds as many memories as mysteries. It seems like old home week, but even Pepper is stunned when her mother recognizes the new Market potter Bonnie Clay—only under a different name. Thirty years ago Lena Reece knew the artist as Peggy Manning, but the reasons for the name change and the chilliness between them are topics Pepper’s mother refuses to discuss. This is the one time Pepper cannot respect her mother’s privacy, especially when Bonnie/Peggy is murdered in her subletted apartment.
Thirteen years as the former wife of a police officer, as well as her experience in human resources, give Pepper the insight and problem-solving skills to help her uncover the mystery behind Peggy Manning. The theft of a bracelet found in Grace House seems connected to the murder, further propelling Pepper into the investigation despite her initial declarations to refrain. The local former free spirits seem unusually reluctant to discuss what led to their fracture in the 80s, and Pepper is torn between finding justice for Bonnie/Peggy and fearing what Pepper may learn about her mother and their friends.
Seattle and Pike’s Place Market come alive in this third in the Spice Shop Mystery series, as the artists and local artisanal storefronts create innovative new ways to make a profit. Readers will thoroughly enjoy learning about the nuances of spices through the Changing Courses cooking courses Pepper teaches to disadvantaged adults hoping to start a career. Pepper’s most steadfast companion remains her Airedale Arf, especially considering Pepper must decide whether she deserves more than just a Mr. Good Enough For Now. The realization that those closest to her, including her own mother, are hiding secrets has Pepper questioning her relationships and what the investigation may cost them. A cold case detective, one half of the partners Detective Spencer and Tracy, and even the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating all bolster Pepper’s human resource skills. Solving a murder without alienating her mother or her friends will be a piece of spicy cake compared to satisfying an incoherent bridezilla on a mission to fill her registry. Budewitz has created a compelling heroine changing paths in her mid-life, and the choices she makes are as brave as they are entertaining.
To enter to win a copy of all 4 books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “october penguins,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 5, 2016. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
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