by Sandra Murphy
& Cynthia Chow
This week we have another group of food mysteries for your Christmas feast-Game of Cones: A Lickety Split Mystery by Cynthia Baxter, Finished Off in Fondant: A Courtney Archer Mystery by Rosemarie Ross, and Murder with Oolong Tea: A Daisy’s Tea Garden Mystery by Karen Rose Smith. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 3 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.
Game of Cones: A Lickety Split Mystery by Cynthia Baxter
Review by Cynthia Chow
With business understandingly slowing down during the Upstate New York winter, Lickety Splits Ice Cream Shoppe owner Kate McKay is looking forward to the frozen confection-themed We All Scream for Ice Cream weekend at the Mohawk Mountain Resort. The hotel’s general manager will not only be paying Kate to present workshops and demonstrations on how to create her beloved icy treats, Kate will be able to make it a paid vacation with old high school boyfriend Jake. Her dreams of a catered, relaxing weekend are dashed when a fallen tree completely blocks the road leading up to the Catskill Mountains historical hotel, closing off guests from the normal chefs, maids, and bellhops who had not yet arrived.
The weekend soon becomes a locked-in murder when Kate finds one of the guests, makeup maven Bethany La Montaine, stabbed to death after a power outage. Now trapped in a creepy old mansion (ok, a stunningly gorgeous resort), Kate must use her limited resources to discover who finally put an end to the wealthy executive in charge of her family’s business. Rival former coworkers, a handsome boyfriend, a strange butler, and a determined hotel manager are among those with mysterious pasts and possible connections to the victim.
This fourth in the series by a prolific author takes her characters out of the Wolfert’s Roost setting and delightfully places them in a classic locked-room mystery setting. It gives Kate permission to release her curiosity not just to solve the murder, but to prevent another murder before the authorities can arrive. That doesn’t mean that Kate still won’t have time to demonstrate her mouth-watering ice cream recipes, which are included for readers to try out even if they don’t have ice cream machines. Limited Wi-Fi access has Kate relying more than ever on her friends back in her Hudson Valley hometown, as they are able to use the Internet to delve in the suspects’ pasts and hidden secrets. Twists and unexpected surprises will have readers surprised by the final reveal, with the conclusion granting Kate with heartwarming satisfaction as well. This is the perfect book to curl up with during the winter season, as nothing could be better than this fun blend of culinary cozy with a traditional mystery twist.
Finished Off in Fondant: A Courtney Archer Mystery by Rosemarie Ross
Review by Cynthia Chow
After achieving success with her cooking show Cooking with the Farmer’s Daughter, Courtney Archer is on the precipice of making an announcement that could get her cancelled. She may have the heart of a someone raised on the farmland, but in truth Courtney was raised in Chicago by her physician father. Until the public receives that news, though, she will continue hosting The American Baking Battle in the Pocono Mountain Coal Castle Resort. With the new season being the Wedding Edition, professional and amateur cooks will be competing with dishes designed for engagement parties and wedding receptions. The competition barely begins before co-host Skyler Daily falls ill, along with several other contestants. It’s on a welfare check to see how Skyler is faring that Court finds him bloody, unconscious, and next to a murdered bride on a wedding cake.
While new producer Quintin Shepherd insists that the production continue, Courtney can’t help but worry about whether one of the contestants could be a killer. As contestants serve up mouth-watering appetizers and creative one-bite delights, Courtney and her possible future co-host (depending on how the fans receive her non-farmer’s daughter reveal) Shannon Collins begin looking closer into the lives of those on set. A maple magnate, husband-and-wife rivals, and even a cupcake bakery king number among those competing for the top prize. The discovery that the victim had once been imprisoned for stalking Skyler shocks Courtney and further implicates him in the death, as even she must wonder if Skyler had had enough of Lisa Mackliner’s unwanted attention. For the production to go on the question will not be who is awarded the Baker of the Day, but who is the Murderer of the Baking Battle Bride.
This second in the series will have readers’ mouths watering with the abundance of wedding-themed entries in the cooking competition. The descriptions of crostini, frozen drinks, and desserts are worthy of Gourmet Magazine, and this is an instance where one wishes that pictures were included. The irony of Courtney hosting a wedding-themed season is high as she is torn between two possible romantic futures, one with security expert Drake Nolan and the other with her producer Eric Iverson. That she has not progressed past friend status with either is a bit problematic, but understandable considering how her next decision could affect their professional relationships. The green monster of jealousy that is stirred up when a new woman arrives should give some insight into her feelings, for readers if not for Courtney herself. The outstanding elements of this series are the behind-the-scenes glimpses into the filming of a baking competition, which are fascinating and intricate. Make-up stations, quick introductions of the challenges, mental adjustments by contestants, and the critiques by the judges feel as real as any actual televised show. Readers will be as eager as Courtney for her to take the next steps in her personal and professional lives, which should be filled with delicious cooking and probably more crime-solving investigations.
Murder with Oolong Tea: A Daisy’s Tea Garden Mystery by Karen Rose Smith
Review by Sandra Murphy
Daisy’s Tea Garden’s getting good reviews as a caterer for small gatherings. When the local high school wants tea and treats to unwind after the spring concert, Daisy’s got them covered.
Althea Higgins is most opinionated and not at all shy about sharing her feelings on topics like school uniforms, and a teacher she feels, although well-liked, isn’t qualified and who should be fired. She shares loudly enough to be overheard by whoever she’s talking about, too. She’d even stopped by the Tea Garden to tell Daisy how to make the tea and treats.
It’s still a shock for Daisy to go in search of her and find her floating in the school’s swimming pool, strangled, with one of the teachers on hand and thoroughly wet. With Althea’s grumpy, know-it-all attitude, the suspect list is long. Daisy’s been involved with murders before and the ‘not qualified’ teacher asks for her help.
The more Daisy digs, the more apparent it becomes—Althea’s school life and her personal life didn’t match. At school, she was a perfectionist and demanded the same of others. At home, there was chipped, peeling paint on the house and barn. It certainly showed a different side of Althea.
At home, Jazzy, Daisy’s adopted daughter, asks if a friend can stay with them for a couple of weeks while her parents are out of town. The girl arrives, piercings and odd clothes, and whatever enters her mind, comes out her mouth—no filter. Her parents notify Daisy they’ll be staying longer, that won’t be a problem, right?
Daisy also gets involved with the girl’s grandmother who, not ready for assisted living, does need some help. What should have been an easy favor is turning into adopting the whole family while the parents gallivant around Europe. And then there’s Daisy’s boyfriend. Things were going smoothly but…now will he speak to her again? Readers will be anxious to follow the developments.
This is book six in the series with Murder with Orange Pekoe Tea coming in August 2021. At the back of this book are recipes for blueberry coffee cake, streusel topping, and cabbage sausage soup.
To enter to win a copy of all 3 books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “christmas feast” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen January 2, 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.
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. Also listen to our new mystery podcast where mystery short stories and first chapters are read by actors! They are also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. A new Christmas episode went up this week.
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