Kristan (Stan) Connor is back in “Custom Baked Murder,” this time with more furry friends in residence and a love life that is heating up. Kristan is busy getting ready to open her long-anticipated pet café, with specially designed display cases, and new ideas to make both human and furry customers happy. She has two new backers for the business – one she’s happy about; the other she puts up with in order to realize her dream.
Her mother, ever detail oriented and still driving Stan crazy, is getting engaged to the Mayor and the big announcement will be made at a blowout party at the groom-to-be’s house. But the Mayor doesn’t show, and Stan’s irritating former colleagues do – along with her former fiancée. Talk about cringe worthy events. Oh, and there’s the murder at the party. Certainly, a memorable evening. And not in a good way.
The murder victim isn’t well-liked, so the question the police must answer is not who killed her, but instead, which one on the long list of enemies got to her first? Rumors fly and suspicions drive wedges into the small community, with several misunderstandings and family surprises thrown into the mix. Kristan must shield her mother from the press, while trying to prove her own former fiancée innocent. The overlapping story-lines are intriguing and keep the pages turning in this well-plotted mystery.
Including old friends and enemies in “Custom Baked Murder” adds a delicious twist. Sometimes we hope that the oldies (but baddies) will fade away from our lives forever, or that they might have changed, but wham! There they are, creating havoc yet again when least convenient. Mugavero captures this dynamic perfectly as she delivers the multiple red herrings.
Mugavero has expanded the relationships among the ensemble characters throughout the Pawsitively Organic series, evolving them in a natural way as time has passed. One gem of a character is Cyril, the reporter. Anyone who has ever met a small-town journalist will recognize the dogged chase after any detail that will make headlines. His shifts between investigation and bargaining for information are spot-on. And, then we have Stan’s hunky love interest, Jake, who keeps proving why he’s one of the good guys. The sisters have a larger role this time and fans will love that the series has become an engaging family affair.
Never fear, dogs and cats play important roles, including when Kristan throws a fund-raiser for a K-9. Mugavero continues to show us ways we can help the real-life animals in our lives. Happily, “Custom Baked Murder” includes more healthy pet recipes. The blueberry biscuits look tasty enough to be people food.
Don’t miss “Custom Baked Murder,” the fifth in the highly entertaining series.
Read my review of the Agatha nominated, “Kneading to Die,” here.
Read my review of “A Biscuit, A Casket” here.
Please visit www.lizmugavero.com for more information about Liz and her future projects, as well as her continuing work in Animal Advocacy.
What cook can resist a great new cookbook?
Even better, what foodie/avid reader can resist a cookbook created by his/her favorite author?
The following twelve cookbooks have been recommended by the readers of Nightstand Book Reviews as part of their literary and/or cookbook collections. The cookbooks would definitely make a fun gift to a fan of any of the authors. There are some pretty famous writers in the mix and many of the cookbooks have been nominated for awards. If you have tried any of the recipes, please let us know in the comments.
Click on the book title to learn more about the featured recipes.
"Cooking with Jane Austen" – Kirstin Olsen
"Food to Die For" – Patricia Cornwell, Marlene Brown
"Goldy’s Kitchen Cookbook" – Diane Mott Davidson
"KP Authors Cook Their Books" – 11 Kindle Press authors
"Mystery Writers of America Cookbook" – Kate White, editor; famous mystery writer contributors
"The Cat Who Cookbook" – Lilian Jackson Braun
"The Cozy Cookbook" – Laura Childs & other bestselling cozy writers
"The Hemingway Cookbook" – Craig Boreth
"The Outlander Kitchen: The Official Outlander Companion Cookbook" – Theresa Carle-Sanders
"Winnie the Pooh’s Teatime Cookbook" – A.A. Milne
“Drizzled with Death” opens as Dani Greene temporarily escapes the holiday mania afflicting her family. She catches up on work in the sugarhouse at Greener Pastures maple syrup farm, annoyed at being ignored at the age of 26. She is the youngest in the family, and at less than five feet tall, she finds it hard to be taken seriously, despite her business savvy that has transformed a family hobby into a thriving business.
Sounds like the start to a pleasant read about a young woman making her way through life in the small town of Sugar Grove, New Hampshire. More like a side-splitting read. During her musing, Dani is startled by a mountain lion peering at her through the sugarhouse window. Gulp. She calls for help, but the Fish and Game Warden sent out to investigate, Graham Paterson, doesn’t believe her. The mountain lion is long gone, the Fish and Game guy is smirking and she loses all credibility when he spies the wine glass. Yup, wine always makes me see mountain lions. How about you? 😉
If being dismissed by the Game Warden isn’t enough to make Dani spit maple syrup, the next day at the Sap Bucket Brigade annual fundraiser pancake breakfast, a contestant pitches face first halfway into the seventh syrup-dripping stack of pancakes. Death by pancake? I’d be pitched over after the second stack, but that’s just me.
Graham Paterson reveals that a truckload of exotic animals has been released and are running all over the area – caused by a talkative parrot. You have to read “Drizzled with Death” to find out how the parrot is involved. There are some really funny scenes that involve chasing wacky animals with nets and LOTS more.
There is a great deal to recommend in “Drizzled with Death,” not the least of which is a very engaging Dani, and the relationships with the ex-boyfriend and the Game Warden. Dani uncovers some skullduggery that affects the area, and particularly Greener Pastures’ livelihood. She needs to uncover the culprit/motivation before the family name is ruined and before she winds up dead herself.
There are zany characters with hidden agendas, decidedly wacky animals, and a clever subplot that will keep you intrigued to the end. Crockett has a witty way of turning a phrase that reminds us how funny life can be – after we have survived the crazy, of course.
Happily, there are also recipes at the end, including a concoction called “Who’d a Thunk It.” It’s a sandwich created with an apple, bacon, waffles and maple syrup. Me, oh , my, doesn’t that sound like a delicious combo?
“Drizzled with Death” is the first book in the Sugar Grove series. There are two later books, and hopefully, more to come.
Please visit www.jessiecrockett.com for information about Jessie Crockett’s other books as well as her work with the Wicked Cozys.
Sarah Winston is back in “The Longest Yard Sale,” the second installment in Sherry Harris’ habit-forming Garage Sale Mysteries. In addition to conducting her usual private home tag sales, Sarah has taken on the enormous job of running a one-day, town-wide event. And almost everybody has a great time. Including the thief that steals a valuable painting from an art studio belonging to Sarah’s friend, Carol. Law enforcement is focused on putting out fires as well as the Yard Sale crowds, so they don’t have quite as much fun.
Art theft? Fires? Add in a murder, a mayor who is never where she’s supposed to be, embezzlement, possible forgery, a ‘framed’ body discovered the day after the theft occurs, and we have a great mystery that intrigues and satisfies. Why was the body found at Carol’s studio? Is the body connected to the theft or merely a wild coincidence? And, what’s really going on in that studio?
CJ, the Chief of Police and Sarah’s ex, warns Sarah to stay out of it, but she can’t help herself. She needs to collect information to save Carol from being prosecuted and her own reputation from being smeared. There are plenty of suspects to go around in “The Longest Yard Sale,” and Harris deftly deals with throwing suspicion in all the right places while the layered plot unfolds.
Although Sarah has divorced her former Air Force husband, she still has ties to the local Base and the thrift store there, and maybe even to said hubby, CJ. Just because she now has to be buzzed onto the Base to gain access to the thrift store (and a possible new crime) Sarah’s interest in getting to the bottom of the bargain bins and ferreting out suspicious scams never wanes.
Life in and after the Air Force is further explored in “The Longest Yard Sale,” and all is not as it should be. One of the subplots discusses a normal real-life pre-retirement activity: officers that use military connections to help set up post military life. In this case, people may have lost money in the process, but were they actually swindled? How? By whom?
There is a new guy in Sarah’s life, but is CJ still in the picture as well? She struggles with why she was so quick to believe the worst about him and so ready to divorce. Harris creates a believable mental tug-of-war for Sarah, with CJ and the new guy playing strong male roles, each unaware of the feelings that Sarah may have for the other. An interesting balancing act that adds another layer to the tale. Which guy will she choose? Will she wait too long to make that decision? Does she need to make any decision at all?
The great dynamic between Sarah and the men in her life, the nicely developed cast of characters, the twists in the engaging plot(s) in “The Longest Yard Sale,” all drive me to one conclusion: can’t wait to see what happens in the next book!
Harris’ debut novel, “Tagged for Death,” an Agatha Award nominee, is reviewed here.
Please visit www.sherryharrisauthor.com for more information about Sherry Harris and her work.