by Cynthia Chow
& Sandra Murphy
Since this is Thanksgiving week we thought it would be fun to review some food mysteries for your Thanksgiving feast-Deck the Donuts: A Deputy Donuts Mystery by Ginger Bolton, The Cure for What Ales You: A Sloan Krause Mystery by Ellie Alexander, Here Comes the Fudge: A Candy-Coated Mystery by Nancy Coco, No Grater Crime: A Country Store Mystery by Maddie Day, and Murder Can Frost Your Doughnut: A Haunted Craft Mystery by Rose Pressey. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 5 books and links to purchase them at the end of each review–you may not be able to see the Amazon links if you have ad blocker on.
Deck the Donuts: A Deputy Donuts Mystery by Ginger Bolton
Review by Sandra Murphy
Emily Westhill is part owner, along with her father-in-law, of Deputy Donut, Fallingbrook, Wisconsin’s best loved donut shop. Although Emily’s been widowed for several years, she’s still family to her in laws.
Christmas is almost here. Snow is predicted, the ice sculptures are in the square lit by Christmas lights, the tree is up, and gifts almost bought. Emily’s been spending a lot of time with Brett, a police detective and her husband’s former partner. He’s been a good friend, but now she thinks, he might just be more than that.
She and Brett enjoyed an afternoon skiing, but now the snow is starting to come down. Time to get home before they’re stranded. Before they can leave, Brett is called to assist at a wreck. A tour bus full of families went off the road. The driver is taken to the hospital, one woman has a broken arm, but all the rest need a place to stay. Townspeople divide them up and provide food and lodging.
One of the sculptures is Frosty the Donut. Emily stops by to brush the night’s snow off Frosty before opening the donut shop, only to find Frosty is more like Humpty Dumpty and has fallen over during the night. And under Frosty is a very dead body.
Can Brett, with Emily’s help, solve the mystery before Santa comes down the chimney?
This is book six in the series. The relationship Emily has with her co-workers and Tom and Cindy, her in-laws, is enviable. Her emerging romance and the hesitation that goes with it shows a willingness to take a risk. Emily isn’t one to take risks that put her in danger though. She asks questions of neighbors but doesn’t confront suspects. She’s careful and aware. She’s someone you’d like for a friend, and besides that, she makes donuts. She’s shared two recipes at the back of the book: Gingerbread Donuts and Chocolate-Orange donuts with a glaze in the same flavor.
The Cure for What Ales You: A Sloan Krause Mystery by Ellie Alexander
Review by Sandra Murphy
Sloan Krause brews beer, makes great breakfast foods, and has always wondered about her past. She went into foster care at a young age. What happened to her mother and a mysterious woman she remembers as Marianne?
During the annual Maifest, Sloan and her partner, Garrett, are ready to debut their newest beer, Lemon Kiss. With all the festivities and dodging the local PR woman who thinks lederhosen and dirndl dresses are a must, Sloan’s got her hands full. When she sees a woman who looks like Marianne, she chases after her but loses her in the crowd.
Marianne pops up more than once but never stays in place long enough for Sloan to catch up with her. When the housekeeping supervisor is killed in Marianne’s hotel, she’s a likely suspect.
Finally talking to Sloan, she reveals many, but not all, the family secrets—and issues a warning that Sloan and her family are in danger because of a long ago murder.
This is book five in the series. Sloan is making a new life for herself, post divorce. She’s still part of the Kraus family and the business but also has her own. There’s a potential relationship but nothing that has to move faster. Sadly, the only disappointment is Sloan does not share recipes at the end of the book. However, she does talk about them throughout and good cooks will be able to figure them out. I look forward to the next installment of her life.
Here Comes the Fudge: A Candy-Coated Mystery by Nancy Coco
Review by Cynthia Chow
While the summer tourist season hasn’t quite yet started again for Mackinac Island, the McMurphy Hotel and Fudge Shop is slow but steady with Allie McMurphy’s year-round plans to remain open for construction workers and sporadic guests. She’s also deep in the weeds planning her best friend Jenn’s wedding in just one week, even though the event-planning bride seems to have no concerns about booking additional weddings the week following her own. This is definitely not the time for Jenn’s prospective groom to go missing, especially, when they do eventually find Shane, he is holding a bloody knife and standing over a dead body.
Allie has had more than one encounter with murder and investigating, so she finds it infuriating when the detective Rex Manning shuts her out and refuses to give her any information about the victim or Shane. The fact that Rex has essentially ghosted her after the intrusion of his (second) ex-wife into their lives doesn’t help, nor that their first date seems to have been a one-and-done. That makes the advances of the Thor-like new Bed and Breakfast owner Harry Winston rather welcoming, and his and Allie’s outings have the tiny Michigan Island buzzing with opinions. Who Allie and Jenn really wish would talk more is Shane, as the crime scene investigator is not under arrest but refuses to tell his fiancé any details whatsoever about what occurred. Despite the warnings from the men in their lives, Allie and Jenn use their network of fudge-hungry seniors and neighbors for gossip and information about the victim, the woman found next to him, and how they were connected to Shane.
This ninth in the series is full of enough extremely last-minute wedding details to delight those who appreciate cake tastings and dress-fittings. Even more tantalizing is Allie’s fudge artistry within her shop, including recipes for non-candies Chocolate Almond Butter Crunch Bars and Decadent Salted Caramel Pretzel Brownies. Adorable malti-poo Mal and calico Mella add in the perfect amount of cozy fun, and when one is threatened, Allie kicks into warrior mode. She is pretty relentless when it comes to investigating to help those she loves, and Rex and Shane should know better than attempt to stop her from interfering. Allie’s personal life has her spiraling a bit, considering that she has fears of divorce before she’s even had second dates. The small island becomes something of a locked-room mystery with its limited suspects and motives, yet the author pulls off the trick of completely surprising both Allie and the reader by the end. Fudge-making, wedding-planning, and a thoroughly suspenseful ending will have readers on the edge of their seats and ready for the next happy-ending installment.
No Grater Crime: A Country Store Mystery by Maddie Day
Review by Cynthia Chow
As the owner of Pans ‘N Pancakes country store in South Lick, Indiana, Robbie Jordan is always on the lookout for more antique kitchenware to sell within her breakfast and lunch restaurant. It’s brought her to the Scottsburg Antique Fair, and she’s on the hunt to pick up an assortment of vintage graters. While browsing through the outdoor aisles with her Aunt Adele they meet Hattie and Francis Sands, former wholesale food owners who now plan to open their own “high-end” antique store directly across from Pans ‘N Pancakes. Robbie is less worried about the competition than she is about the family’s twenty-three-years-and-fifteen-days-long hatred for Adele, whom they blame for not doing enough to help their son while she was the fire chief. A happier distraction is Robbie’s impending wedding in one month to Abe O’Neill, although everyone seems to have those plans already organized and ready to go. Which is fortunate, considering that a mushroom poisoning in Robbie’s restaurant has them temporarily closed while she worries of either an arrest or lawsuit.
Robbie can’t help but wonder if the poisoning, which tragically proves to be fatal, was more of an attack on her and her business than it was directed towards any customer. The Sands family definitely has a cloud of suspicion around them, as Hattie has a sticky-finger habit while their daughter-in-law pulls up in a food truck intending to sell her KK Sands sandwiches right across the street. Even more disturbing is learning that the Sands’ son operates the food delivery service responsible for the mushrooms, and that his twin sister just happens to be Abe’s ex-wife. It’s all getting a little too intertwined and personal for Robbie, which is why she feels she must discover the truth about the mushroom mix-up in order to prevent it from ever happening again.
This ninth in the series focuses on the core group of Robbie’s loved ones while introducing the very dysfunctional Sands family. The topic of bullying and identity is carefully and thoughtfully drawn into the novel through Teddy Sands and Len Perlman, the latter the brother of Robbie’s bestie Lou. Police Lieutenant Buck Bird seems to assume a lackadaisical pace when investigating, relying on Robbie and her relentless pursuit of clues and suspects to track down the mystery of the mycology murder. Aunt Adele and her own octogenarian boyfriend Samuel MacDonald are a delight with their sharp observations and heated romance, making them relationship goals as Robbie and Abe blend their households. Robbie spends her time ruminating as she mixes pancake batter and preparing surprisingly healthy baked brunch treats, with mouth-watering recipes for Oven-Fried Catfish and Grated Everything Fritters included at the end. Emotional depths are explored as unexpected tragedies occur, but throughout an upbeat tone is maintained through Robbie’s dogged, yet sensible, investigation as she manages her restaurant, out-wits a kleptomaniac, and looks forward to a happily-ever-after walk down the aisle. While the group of suspects may be small, narrowing down the exact one will prove to be the real challenge as Robbie ensures that the Pans ‘N Pancakes doors. That it has taken this long in a mystery series for a restaurant to have been the site of a poisoning is remarkable, but it is worth the wait when it concludes with a satisfying and heart-warming ending.
Murder Can Frost Your Doughnut: A Haunted Craft Mystery by Rose Pressey
Review by Cynthia Chow
Celeste Cabot has built a career for herself selling her artwork out of a trailer she uses to travel to craft fairs from North Carolina to Tennessee. Her second career is attempting to corral in her brothers and father, who, along with her mother, have arrived early for a visit. Celeste and her family are in the mountains of Eastern Tennessee to attend the Sevier County Fair, which along with fried butter and fried candy bars is renowned for hosting a celebrity impersonator contest. Johnny Cashes, Dolly Partons, Loretta Lynns, and many, many Elvis impersonators roam the fair, but it’s one suspicious-acting jumpsuit-wearing one and another very dead Elvis who really capture Celeste’s attention. Having recently discovered a talent for ghosts appearing after she unconsciously paints them into her artwork, Celeste shouldn’t have been too surprised at the sight of a spectral pompadoured and bedazzled impersonator after painting a portrait of the King.
Despite shots having rung out before Celeste stumbled over his body that was strangled by a wire, Donald Moran refuses at first to believe that he was murdered. Once he admits to what the evidence indicates, though, he continues to be less than helpful with his inability to remember any details about his death. Able to provide more practical skills are Detectives Caleb Ward and Pierce Meyer, with one being Celeste’s ex-boyfriend and the other being Celeste’s future-maybe. When the two aren’t jealously chest-thumping over past and present rivalries, they are warning Celeste away from their investigation. Between attempting to keep her brothers out of trouble and sorting out the killer Elvis from the suspect Elvises, Celeste will barely have time to figure out how to finally send her own haunting crooner off into the light.
This fourth in this very light-hearted series entertains readers with the antics of Celeste and her exuberant family. The descriptions of the fair and her art are elaborate and welcoming, and both truly paint an image of a place readers want to visit. Celeste is as much frustrated and exasperated with her romantic suitors as she is intrigued, which is why they are useful more as investigative tools who are slowly accepting her paranormal gifts. Adorable, floppy-eared Chihuahua Vincent Van Gogh continues to be Celeste’s constant companion as she hurtles herself into adventure and impulsive interrogations. The ghosts of her painted portraits may be limited in their capacity to help investigate their deaths, but they more than make up with that with their intrusive but hilarious observations. This fun mix of spirits, southern fair foods, and eccentric characters are the perfect read for Halloween or any time of the year.
To enter to win a copy of all 5 books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “thanksgiving” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 27, 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 MAY TAKE MUCH LONGER THAN USUAL FOR WINNERS TO GET THEIR BOOKS DUE TO THE CURRENT CRISIS.
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