by Cynthia Chow
This week we have 3 new food mysteries from Penguin & Kensington authors for your holiday reading-The Chocolate Bunny Brouhaha by JoAnna Carl, The Good, the Bad, and the Guacamole: A Taste of Texas Mystery by Rebecca Adler, A Killer Kebab: A Greek to Me Mystery by Susannah Hardy, and Dying for Strawberries: A Berry Basket Mystery by Sharon Farrow. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win copies of all 4 books, and links to purchase them.
The Chocolate Bunny Brouhaha by JoAnna Carl
Review by Sandra Murphy
Lee McKinney’s main job title is office manager for her aunt’s chocolate shop. They ship all over the country as well as sell a lot from the storefront. Now they’re in the middle of expanding, and like all renovation projects, it’s taking longer than expected, especially when a dead body is found in the new part of the shop. The puzzle is, how did anyone get in there? There are deadbolts and padlocks and a limited number of keys.
Lee’s own marriage is good, which is more than she can say about the new hire’s situation. Bunny has been married to Beau and most of her time was spent in taking care of him, not herself. She’s hired Joe, Lee’s lawyer husband, to help with her divorce. The divorce wasn’t Bunny’s idea—Beau brought home his newest girlfriend and announced Bunny should move out so she did. Lee’s given her a job making chocolates, which could be really nice – if only she weren’t clumsy and could remember what to do from one time to the next.
Everyone knows Dolly. She’s been making chocolates for years now. It seems Dolly has a secret too—could it be a boyfriend? She’s not saying but something’s up for sure.
There are a few suspects for the murderer. After all, the victim was no prize, at least to most people. Lee is eager to get the mystery solved so the renovations can go on, life can settle down, and chocolates can be shipped. After all, even though it sounds long off, Easter is the next big holiday to prepare for and chocolate bunnies don’t multiply on their own.
This is book sixteen in the series. Lee likes solving puzzles but since her uncle is the police chief and this murder took place in her shop, she’s hampered by what amounts to a gag order to keep details under wraps and within the police department. There’s a lot of information about chocolate in the story, which only serves to make you hungry as you read. Be prepared, stock up on good chocolate before you start reading. In between chapters, find chocolate trivia and history. These can be read before or after the mystery so you won’t lose track of clues. Pay close attention to who knew the buildings, had access to keys and could move the body—and you’ll still be surprised at who did it!
The Good, the Bad, and the Guacamole: A Taste of Texas Mystery by Rebecca Adler
Review by Cynthia Chow
Nine months ago a broken engagement and professional embarrassment sent Josie Callahan back home to Broken Boot, Texas, but since then she has comfortably settled in. Part-time waitressing at her family’s Tex-Mex restaurant, she has managed to get back into reporting with the town’s local newspaper, the Broken Boot Bugle. A friendship forged through fire and the survival of a murderous attack has her once again bonded to her childhood friend Patti Perez, perhaps the only Goth girl in Texas who owns a Feed and Supply store. While Josie still feels the aftereffects of being left at the altar by her musician fiancé, Patti is all too willing to meet up with her own singing cowboy ex-boyfriend. In Broken Boots to perform for the Homestead Days annual celebration, Jeff Clark has invited Patti to meet up with him while he sings at the Two Boots dance hall. Jeff ends up going home with Patti that night, but it is Josie who discovers his body the next morning, knocked out by a Fender guitar into a bowl of guacamole.
Jeff and Patti’s tempestuous relationship was worthy of its own country song, but that didn’t mean that the Goth Princess jealously finished him off in her own home. The sexy up-and-coming singer had been gaining a growing number of obsessed groupies, and his own bandmates were vying the lead position. Fearful of any bad publicity that might discourage tourists, the mayor pushes for an arrest and circumstantial evidence too quickly leads to Patti being taken to jail. Never one to shy away from sticking her reporter’s nose into police matters, Josie immediately begins to question witnesses, the bandmates, and Jeff’s condescending Los Angeles agent. Handsome Deputy Quint Lightfoot normally has little patience for Josie’s involvement in official business, but this is the one time that he feels that justice is taking a backseat to the mayor’s plan to promote Broken Boot as a cultural and tourist destination.
Josie may be hesitant about sticking her toe back into the dating world, but she hurtles herself into the investigation to clear her friend and solve Jeff’s murder. Josie’s ‘abuela,’ Senora Mari, continues to rule over the family’s Milagro restaurant, curtailing the efforts of Josie’s Aunt Linda to steer towards a healthier menu and Uncle Eddie’s hopes to take advantage of the publicity raised by Jeff’s murder. Josie’s tendency to impulsively lead with her heart may have cost her one journalist job and make her a less-than-objective reporter, but it has gained her a small but loyal group of followers for the blog “written” by her Chihuahua Lenny. Perhaps it shouldn’t be too surprising then that her personality rather closely resembles that of her feisty canine companion; the two are often nipping at the heels of everyone involved in the investigation. Josie’s inquisition of musicians and jealous groupies often keep her away from the restaurant and Two Boots dance hall, but readers should rest assured that she still has time to feast on Milagro’s enchiladas, ineffectively flirt with Lightfoot, and be hilariously outmaneuvered by her abuela.
A Killer Kebab: A Greek to Me Mystery by Susannah Hardy
Review by Cynthia Chow
Every year from November until May, the Bonaparte House Greek restaurant remains closed for the winter season. After finally convincing her mother-in-law to loosen up her very abundant purse strings, Georgie Nikolopatos is using the downtime to renovate the restaurant’s very outdated bathrooms. Her excitement is dampened by the realization that her contractor has hired her cook’s son Russ Riley to work on the construction crew, as Georgie had recently fired the ex-dishwasher for a multitude of crimes. The renovations have barely begun before murder once again makes an unwelcome appearance in Georgie’s life, this time in the form of her divorce attorney Jim MacNamara literally being stabbed in the back with her rotisserie spit in the Bonaparte House bathroom.
Fingerprints lead to the immediate arrest of Russ Riley, but murder is the one crime Georgie believes he would not commit. Her own contractor Steve Murdoch had more than enough reason to want MacNamara dead, as the lawyer’s affair with Steve wife has the recovering alcoholic falling off the wagon and sleeping on his couch. That doesn’t even take into consideration the land development deal that would deprive Russ of hunting ground privileges, but also pit the attorney against the contractor. Georgie has had more than enough death in her life without getting involved in another, as the recent discovery of the appropriately named Bloodworth Trust had already led to three murders of vying heirs. Learning that Georgie’s best friend was actually her cousin was incredible news, but less welcoming was the reappearance of Georgie’s estranged soap opera actress mother. As much as Georgie is concerned about the murder of her attorney, she can’t help but worry how this affects her ongoing divorce or the search for more possible relatives and heirs. It would be nice if Georgie’s boyfriend Jack Conway would be around for support, but his need-to-know assignment for the Coast Guard has him incommunicado for an indeterminate amount of time. It would be even better if this could all be achieved before her planned family Thanksgiving dinner.
This third in the Greek to Me Mystery series successfully balances the two main plots and even manages to weave in the mysterious origin of Thousand Island Dressing. Georgie is a refreshingly grounded woman who has little patience for her narcissistic mother and even less for the rather lackadaisical police investigation. The humor is smart and matched by the writing, which continues to build upon mysteries developed in the first of the series, “Feta Attraction.” Georgie has become stronger and even more likable as the novels progress, rounding out the life of a woman who is coming into her own in a delicious world of Greek delicacies.
Dying for Strawberries: A Berry Basket Mystery by Sharon Farrow
Review by Cynthia Chow
Marlee Jacob’s career may have followed a rocky path, but she recently settled back home in Oriole Point, Michigan. Now the owner of the Berry Basket, Marlee specializes in creating and selling all manner of products made from fresh berries. Marlee survived one scandal producing a national cooking show, but she couldn’t move past the second one that ended with the co-host of a Gourmet Network show poisoning her cheating chef husband. Marlee would understandably prefer to lay low while providing her wonderful berry delicacies and goods, but in an amalgam of Friday the 13th events her friend Natasha Bowman disappears just as the scandal-inciting cooking show intern suddenly emerges in the public eye.
Marlee seems to be the only one concerned about the disappearance of the Russian trophy wife, and Marlee loses all credibility when she’s pushed into the river and concussed following a few drinks. Even Marlee’s fiancé Ryan Zellar questions Marlee’s assertions, especially when Natasha’s abusive husband turns up murdered. Natasha may have been the one making public threats again Cole Bowman, but his announcement that he had the property known as the Fields rezoned to be developed into chain stores had nearly every local business owner up in arms. Knowing that the zoning commission would never have normally voted against their own and the town’s interests, Marlee resolutely sets out to determine just how and why they changed their minds.
Dubiously gifted with a name deriving from Charles Dickens’ Christmas novel, Marlee herself relates everyone she meets to a literary character. This says as much about Marlee’s character as it does those in Oriole Point, a town that hides a surprising number of secrets considering the speed and expanse of its gossip. The Summer Strawberry Moon Bash allows Marlee to celebrate her unique store and passion for the berry, but she proves to be just as adept in tracking down the many suspects and their alibis. When Marlee discovers that one of the biggest secrets being kept was held by someone she thought had none, she may not be prepared to confront the fallout of that knowledge. She would far prefer to conduct her own methodical investigation tracking down and eliminating suspects, which Marlee does with a surplus of humor and intelligence. This is the start of an engaging new series that serves up an ample amount of quirky characters who succeed in being as realistic as they are sympathetic. Readers will be fully invested in seeing the decisions Marlee makes in her life, not to mention the chance to spend even more time in this lively and entertaining town.
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 “thanksgiving food,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 26, 2016. 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.
Click on this link to purchase any of these books. If you have ad blocker on you may not see this 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.