Thursday, March 31, 2022

A Relative Murder by Jude Deveraux

A Relative Murder
 Book Summary

Even the closest families have secrets hidden away.

Bestselling novelist Sara Medlar is skilled at sharing stories about other people, but she hoped the truth about her own family would never surface. Her home in Lachlan, Florida, is her refuge and she loves having her niece Kate and dear friend Jack Wyatt together under her roof. The Medlar Three, as they are known around town, have sworn off getting involved in any more murder investigations.

When the sheriff unexpectedly leaves on vacation, Jack is surprised to find himself appointed as deputy. So when Kate stumbles upon a dead body while visiting a friend, the Medlar Three are back in the sleuthing game. Kate also has a charming new real estate client with a mysterious past. He seems to be followed by trouble and that makes Sara and Jack uneasy.

It doesn’t take long to discover that the murder and the new man in town are somehow related—the question is how. When the stranger’s true identity is revealed, Sara realizes her carefully crafted story is about to unravel, and she fears she’ll lose Kate and Jack forever. But she desperately hopes that love and honesty will win out over years of lies and deceit. And besides, family is family—even if you sometimes want to kill them.
My Thoughts

A Relative Murder by Jude Deveraux is the fourth book in The Medlar Mysteries.  While this book can be read on its own, I wish I had read the series in order (I did not know it was part of a series when I acquired the book).  It would have allowed me to get all the background details and it would not have felt like an information overload.  There is plenty of family drama in A Relative Murder along with a murder or two.  There is a diverse cast of characters.  Some I like while others I detested (like Ava).  The characters are well-developed.  I like Sara, Kate, and Jack.    They are all clever, kind, and with extremely curious natures.  A Relative Murder is well-written with steady pacing.  You can tell that the author carefully plotted out this book as well as the whole series.  There are twists and surprises all the way to the conclusion.  Some things can be predicted, but there are plenty of surprises.  I liked the humor in the story.  There are a few times when I ended up laughing out loud (like when Lenny debated on the best way to dispose of a body—an alligator or a woodchipper—he wanted to pick the one that was the most environmentally friendly.)  The murder investigation takes a backseat to everything else going on.  It gets solved in the end (I could have done without the condescending Broward County detective).  Jack as a deputy was humorous.  He could not wait to be done with that job.   Fans of the series will be delighted with this installment. I do want readers to know that there is foul language in the story.A Relative Murder is an entertaining romantic suspense novel (it would not be a Jude Deveraux book without romance).  Be prepared to stay up late to finish the story and have a book hangover the next day.  A Relative Murder is a lively mystery with a melodramatic mother, surprising secrets, a whole lot of holes, a staycation vacation, conniving uncles, a blast from the past, a mysterious murder, and a determined daughter. 

A Relative Murder is available from Amazon*.  The other novels in A Medlar Mysteries are A Willing Murder, A Justified Murder, and A Forgotten Murder.  You can find Jude Deveraux's other novels here including my favorite A Knight in Shining Armor.   Thank you for visiting today.  It is hard to believe that it is the last day of March.  The month just flew by so quickly.  I will return tomorrow with my thoughts on The Fool Dies Last by Carol Miller.   It is the first book in The Fortune Telling Mysteries.  I  hope that you have day filled with joy.  Being happy is good for your health.  We can always use a little more joy and laughter in our lives.  Take care and Happy Reading!


The Avid Reader 

*This post contains affiliate links.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

The Art of the Decoy by Trish Esden: Review, Excerpt, Recipe, and Giveaway!

 The Art of the Decoy


The Art of the Decoy (A Scandal Mountain Antiques Mystery) by Trish Esden

About The Art of the Decoy

The Art of the Decoy (A Scandal Mountain Antiques Mystery)


After her mother is sent to prison for art forgery, Edie Brown returns to Northern Vermont to rebuild her family’s fine art and antiques business. She’s certain she can do it now that her mother is gone. After all, butting heads with her mom over bad business practices was what drove Edie away three years ago, including a screwup that landed Edie on probation for selling stolen property.

When Edie scores a job appraising a waterfowl decoy collection at a hoarder’s farmhouse, she’s determined to take advantage of the situation to rebuild the business’s tarnished reputation and dwindling coffers. In lieu of payment, Edie intends to cherry-pick an exceptional decoy carved by the client’s renowned Quebecoise folk artist ancestors. Only the tables turn when the collection vanishes.

Accused of the theft, Edie’s terrified that the fallout will destroy the business and land her in prison next to her mom. Desperate, she digs into the underbelly of the local antiques and art world. When Edie uncovers a possible link between the decoy theft and a deadly robbery at a Quebec museum, she longs to ask her ex-probation officer, and ex-lover, for help. But she suspects his recent interest in rekindling their romance may hide a darker motive.

With the help of her eccentric uncle Tuck and Kala, their enigmatic new employee, Edie must risk all she holds dear to expose the thieves and recover the decoys before the FBI’s Art Crime Team or the ruthless thieves themselves catch up with her.

About Trish Esden

Trish Esden loves museums, gardens, wilderness, dogs, and birds, in various orders depending on the day. She lives in northern Vermont where she deals antiques with her husband, a profession she’s been involved with since her teens. Don’t ask what her favorite type of antique is. She loves hunting down old bottles and rusty barn junk as much as she enjoys fine art and furnishings.

Author Links


 Sucre a la Crème

THE ART OF THE DECOY, a Scandal Mountain Antiques Mystery

From page 52

Nina snagged Gracie’s hand. “I’m guessing it would be easier to work on the appraisal without distractions.”

“As long as you’re comfortable leaving us alone,” I said.

She waved off the comment. “I just appreciate you being willing to do this, especially on a Sunday. We’ll be in the kitchen if you need us. We have some cooking to do, right Gracie?”

“Sucre a la crème!” Gracie cheered. “Pepe’s favorite.”

“Yes, it is. Except this batch isn’t for him. This is for dance class.”

Tuck stood up straighter. “That’s one of my favorite treats too.”

Nina grimaced, a tinge of pink flushing up her neck and across her cheeks. “I’m using a recipe from Frank’s mother. She was an amazing cook. Mine, however, will probably come out more like rocks than sugary fudge.”

Recipe: Sucre a la Creme


2 cups maple syrup

1 cup granulated white sugar

1 cups light whipping cream

1/ 2 cup ground walnuts or butternuts (optional)

1.   Butter 9x9 pan then line with parchment paper (parchment should hang over edge of pan to make removal easier).

2.  In medium size pot (4 quart) add maple, sugar, and cream. Bring to boil on high heat, stirring constantly.

3.   Once it reaches boil, lower to medium heat, boil without stirring until it reaches soft ball stage (238 degrees F on candy thermometer)

4.   Remove from heat immediately. Do not stir. Let cool to 110 degrees F.

5.  Beat with mixer or by hand until mixture thickens and loses its gloss (color will become lighter and dull).

6.   Pour immediately into lined pan, sprinkle with nuts (if desired) and refrigerate for 1-2 hours. (The sucre a la creme can be scored with knife before refrigerating to make it easier to cut after hardening)

7.    Once cool, cut into pieces. (Store in airtight container, and cool, dry place/ 2-3 weeks)

My Thoughts

The Art of the Decoy by Trish Esden is the first book in A Scandal Mountain Antiques Mysteries.  This is one busy cozy mystery with an attempted murder, a robbery, a museum heist, a murder, and more.  We travel to Scandal Mountain, Vermont where Edie Brown is returning after being gone for many years.  Her mother has just been sentenced to nine months in prison for art forgery and someone is needed to run the family antique store, Scandal Mountain Fine Arts & Antiques.  At an antique appraisal fair, Edie meets Nina with an antique duck decoy.  Edie secures the job of appraising the Bouchard family collection which could be quite lucrative for the store and the Bouchard family.  When the decoys go missing, Nina cries fowl accusing Edie of the theft.  This would forever destroy the business and land her in prison (she could be roommates with her mother).  She gets Nina to agree to give her a chance to recover the lost decoys.  Edie is given a tight timeline.  Edie works with her Uncle Tuck and new employee, Kala Acosta to uncover who stole the antique waterfowl collection and recover them.  

The author provided beautiful descriptions of Vermont.  I also enjoyed the details on the various antiques, especially the duck decoys.  It sounded like an amazing collection. There are a variety of characters in the story with my favorites being Edie’s Uncle Tuck and Kala (a clever girl with lots of energy).  The mystery was multifaceted.  There are some unlikeable characters (our villains) who may or may not be guilty.  Many of them appear guilty, but you never know.  The reveal will have you holding on as Edie speeds toward the conclusion to wrap up the case.  We get some answers along the way with the complete details at the end.  There is a romantic interest for Edie in the form of her old probation officer and lover.  I could have done with less of this element.  I felt it was a little heavy handed in the beginning. The story does contain foul language, mention of intimate situations, and references to wacky tobacky. There are some wonderful antiques mentioned in this book (I grew up surrounded by them with two aunts in the business).  There are duplicitous people out there who will be happy to take advantage of people to make a buck.  The Art of the Decoy has a crafty whodunit with prized duck decoys, an antique appraisal, an enthusiastic employee, a grumpy Gerard, a former lover, filched fowl, a curious connection, and a rough wrap-up.


Chapter One

The brrring of the phone bounced off the van’s metal walls.

Jolting from an adrenaline-fueled dream involving dumpster diving and a Fabergé egg, I fumbled under the pillow for the offending device. “Hello?”

“It’s Tuck. You awake?” 

Aaarggh. Of course, I was awake. Now. If it had been anyone other than my uncle, I’d have bitten their head off for calling at two in the morning.

 “Hang on a minute.” Wriggling out of the sleeping bag, I squeezed toward the van’s sliding door, past suitcases and an early nineteeth-century blanket box from a rummage sale. Though nowhere near as life-altering as discovering a Fabergé egg in a dumpster, the blanket box was a quality piece and an easy sell. I had a knack for finding such things, even when they were hidden amid piles of fakes and other junk. Perhaps it came from growing up in the antiques and art trades, now a fine-tuned instinct after years of tagging along with my grandparents. Maybe it was heightened by my education and internships. Whatever, the neurons at the back of my brain jumped to life every time I crossed paths with a genuine, quality piece.

As I slid the van door open, the overhead light flashed on. The smell of smoldering campfires hung in the damp air. Frogs chimed in the distance.

“You still there?” Tuck asked.

“Yeah. What’s going on?” I settled down in the van’s open doorway. As a rule, Tuck didn’t keep normal hours. Still, this was late, even for him.

“I meant to call earlier. Kala and I were away at an auction.”

“Who’s Kala?”

“She’s not why I called.” His voice tensed. “It’s about your mom.”

I closed my eyes and prayed that the months of waiting and not knowing had come to an end.

 “She took the plea agreement. Nine months. Federal prison. Art forgery.”

The air bottled up in my lungs released. Finally. “So she decided not to risk going to trial.”

“Didn’t have much choice. It could have been a lot worse.”

 “You’re right about that.” Even the thought of jail terrified me. “I still don’t understand how Mom got herself into this situation. She knows what’s legal and what isn’t.”

Tuck was silent for a moment. “Edie, I need you to come home.”

“I’d love to see you, but I’m camped out in the Berkshires, doing a flea market this weekend.”

 “Your internship at the auction house is over, right?”

“Yeah. Last week.” A sick feeling knotted in my chest. He was up to something.

“I didn’t mind helping your mom, but that doesn’t mean I can do everything on my own. Plus, I have the gardens and my African violets…”

As he rambled on about retirement and his latest horticultural ventures, thoughts of the longtime family business seeped into my mind: Scandal Mountain Fine Arts and Antiques. For decades, collectors and dealers had flown in and driven up to northern Vermont to buy from us. Famous artists had held court in the shop and camped out in the spare bedrooms. I vividly remembered racing home from grade school to watch my grandparents unbox their latest finds: primitive paintings, folk art carvings, etched powder horns… so many stunning pieces created by master artisans, history and beauty melding together. I thought of the warmth and strength of Grandma’s hands, and the scent of Grandpa’s corduroy jacket, beeswax, lemon oil, and damp humus.

But along with success came rivals and trouble, and the plane crash that killed my grandparents. After that, Mom took over the business. She was hopelessly inept. It had been nearly three years since I’d lived at home and attempted to work for her. One of her lapses had culminated in my arrest for selling stolen property. Thank you very much, Mom.

Tuck cleared his throat, pulling me from my thoughts. “There’s this appraisal event coming up. An Antiques Roadshow sort of deal. The shop’s under contract to be there, but it’s going to be hard to pull off without your mom’s expertise. I really could use your help.”

“I can’t believe they’d want any of us there. Mom’s arrest has been in the news for months.”

 “It’s here in Scandal Mountain. Will you do it? Please.”

I rubbed a hand over my face. I was good at saying no, but this was Tuck and he rarely asked for anything. “All right. When is it?”

“Tomorrow. Actually, today—it is after midnight.”

“You’ve got to be kidding! I’m five hours away.”

“That’s why I called now. It’s on the village green. Ten o’clock sharp.” He hung up.

I stared at the phone, then laughed. Tuck, the slick bastard. He’d purposely called at the last minute so I wouldn’t have time to wiggle out of the deal, and I’d fallen for it hook, line, and sinker.

And that definitely wasn’t normal for me. 

Are you ready to read The Art of the DecoyThe Art of the Decoy publishes April 5.  The Art of the Decoy is available from AmazonIndieBoundBarnes & NobleBooks-a-Million, and Kobo.  Trish Esden is giving away a gift basket for mystery lovers (over $50 value--sorry, but only open to those in the U.S.).  To enter, click here or enter using the Rafflecopter form below.  Leave a comment on my blog for an extra entry.  Good Luck!  Thank you for joining me today.  I will return tomorrow with my thoughts on A Relative Murder by Jude Deveraux.  It is the fourth A Medlar Mystery.  I hope that you have a fulfilling day.  Do not forget to leave a comment for an extra entry in the giveaway! Take care, stay safe, and Happy Reading!


The Avid Reader 

Tour Participants

March 29 – Novels Alive – GUEST POST 

March 29 – Mysteries with Character – AUTHOR INTERVIEW 

March 30 – The Avid Reader – REVIEW, RECIPE 

March 30 – Ruff Drafts – AUTHOR INTERVIEW 

March 31 - Elizabeth McKenna - Author – SPOTLIGHT 
March 31 - Christy's Cozy Corners – GUEST POST 

April 1 – Celticlady's Reviews – SPOTLIGHT 

April 1 – Christa Reads and Writes - SPOTLIGHT

April 2 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews - REVIEW, CHARACTER INTERVIEW

April 3 – Nellie's Book Nook – REVIEW

April 3 – #BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog – SPOTLIGHT

April 4 – Novels Alive – REVIEW

April 4 – Baroness Book Trove – SPOTLIGHT

April 5 – I Read What You Write – GUEST POST
April 5 – fundinmental – SPOTLIGHT 

April 6 – Maureen's Musings – SPOTLIGHT

April 6 – Sapphyria's Book Reviews - SPOTLIGHT

April 7 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – GUEST POST

April 7 – Ascroft, eh? – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
April 9 – MJB Reviewers – SPOTLIGHT

April 10 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT

April 10 – Rosepoint Publishing – REVIEW

April 11 – Melina's Book Blog – REVIEW

*This post contains affiliate links.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

A Matter of Hive and Death by Nancy Coco

 A Matter of Hive and Death

Book Summary

When a bee wrangler is bludgeoned, Let It Bee honey shop owner Wren Johnson makes it her beeswax to solve the crime . . .

For the picturesque town of Oceanview on the Oregon Coast, May brings blossoming fruit trees and the annual UFO festival. As Aunt Eloise tries out alien costumes on their Havana brown cat Everett, Wren is off to meet with a bee wrangler, her go-to guy for local fruit tree honey.
But when she arrives, Elias Brentwood is lying on the ground amidst destroyed hives and a swarm of angry bees. The bees didn’t kill him, a blow to the head did. As blue-eyed Officer Jim Hampton investigates and the town is invaded by its own swarm of conspiracy theorists and crackpots, Wren and Aunt Eloise decide the only way to catch the bee wrangler’s killer is to set up a sting.
My Thoughts

A Matter of Hive and Death by Nancy Coco is the second An Oregon Honeycomb Mystery.  It can be read as a standalone if you are new to the series.  I enjoyed my visit to Oceanview, Oregon where it is time for the annual UFO Festival.  Wren Johnson is gearing up for the second anniversary of her shop Let It Bee.  Wren is off to meet Elias Brentwood, a bee wrangler.  She arrives to find Elias dead with bees swarming around him because someone destroyed his hives.  It is not a cut and dried case.  Someone bludgeoned Elias and then tossed his house.  When Officer Jim Hampton zeroes in on Klaus, another bee wrangler, as the prime suspect, Wren digs out the murder board.  She knows that Klaus did not harm Elias and she intends to prove it.  Someone, though, is not happy with her snooping and attempts to warn her off.   Wren sets up a sting to catch the killer.  She needs to be careful, or she could end up the one being stung.

Nancy Coco has an engaging writing style.  It makes for an entertaining and enjoyable book.  I like Wren, Aunt Eloise, Porsche, Jim Hampton, and the sweet Everett.  I even like the grumpy Mr. McGregor.  There are great characters in this series.  The author made them friendly, realistic, and relatable.  I like the descriptions of Let It Bee with its various honey related products and an active beehive.  It was interesting learning about bees and their habits.  I was unaware of the various products that can be made from honey and the wax.  The dialogue is realistic and engaging.  The mystery was a fun one to solve.  There are different layers to the whodunit.  It is a well-plotted mystery.  There are good clues to help readers solve the mystery before the reveal.  I enjoyed the reveal and the wrap up.  I was, though, left with a couple of unanswered questions at the end (I would say what they are, but they are spoilers).  There is humor sprinkled throughout the book.   We also get to learn about Havana Brown cats, and I loved Everett, Wren’s cat (I love how he answers her when she talks to him).  There is some romance in the story.  I like that it is not at the forefront of the story and that it is progressing slowly.  There is information on honey as well as honey related recipes before or after different chapters.  I can tell the author has done her research on bees and related products.  A Matter of Hive and Death had me longing for the Oregon coast.  I wanted to stop by and visit Let It Bee where I could have tea with Wren.  I am looking forward to the next An Oregon Honeycomb MysteryA Matter of Hive and Death is the bee’s knees with a bludgeoned bee wrangler, a swarm of suspects, shattered hives, buzzing bees, a special sale, a perplexing puzzle, a concerned officer, and a nosy store owner.  

A Matter of Hive and Death is available from Amazon*.  The first book in An Oregon Honeycomb Mystery series is Death Bee Comes Her (borrow for free through Kindle Unlimited).  Nancy Coco has A Midsummer Night's Fudge coming out May 24.  It is the tenth A Candy-Coated Mystery.  Follow Nancy Coco on Amazon and they will send you an email when she publishes a new book.  Thank you for stopping by today and reading my review.  Tomorrow I am a stop on the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for The Art of the Decoy by Trish Esden.  It is the debut of A Scandal Mountain Antiques Mystery series.  I hope you have a honey of a day.  Take care and Happy Reading!


The Avid Reader 

*This post contains affiliate links.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Monday, March 28, 2022

Lost Coast Literary by Ellie Alexander

 Lost Coast Literary

Book Summary

When an editing pen has the power not only to change stories but also to change lives.

Book editor Emily Bryant finds herself unexpectedly in the charming town of Cascata on California’s Lost Coast, holding the keys to her grandmother’s rambling Victorian mansion. While sorting through her grandmother’s things, Emily learns that she must edit old manuscripts to inherit the estate. It’s a strange request from a family member who was basically a stranger.

Emily quickly realizes that there’s something different about these manuscripts. Any changes she makes come true. At first, she embraces the gift. She has a chance to help characters find true love or chart a new course for their future. But then things go terribly wrong. Her edits have the opposite effect. The sweet and funky seaside community of Cascata is reeling from the chaos Emily has created. Everything she thought she believed about her family and her past is in jeopardy, and no amount of editing can fix the damage she’s done.

Then she finds one last manuscript. If Emily can get this edit right, maybe she’ll have a chance to create a new narrative for herself and everyone around her.

Queen Anne Victorian in Arcata, California
My Thoughts

Lost Coast Literary by Ellie Alexander has Emily Bryant, an assistant editor in New York, inheriting a beautiful Queen Anne Victorian in Cascata, California after the passing of her grandmother.  Emily has not seen her grandmother since she was a child.  She does not know why Grandmother Gertrude, or the rest of her paternal family never tried to see her or contact her.  Her father refuses to discuss it.  The will does have a stipulation.  Emily must edit the forsaken manuscripts in order to claim her full inheritance.  Emily loves editing manuscripts and attacks the first one in the stack.  When she goes into town later, she encounters the people in the manuscript.  The scene she edited plays out in front of her.  Emily edits another manuscript and waits. The same thing happens.  But then the edits do not go the way she expected, and Emily wonders how she can fix things.  Emily must also decide what to do with her inheritance.  She just got her dream job in New York.  The more time Emily spends in Cascata, the more she wonders if New York is the place for her.  In the library, Emily finds another manuscript but this one hits close to home.  Can this manuscript hold the answers Emily seeks?
Downtown Arcata, California

Lost Coast Literary is a story for booklovers.  There are numerous book references throughout the book.  I found this to be an interesting story.   It is well-written with a good flow.  The author provided good descriptions that allowed me to visualize the town with its quirky shops and the beautiful Queen Anne Victorians.  Most of the time the author managed to strike a balance between too much detail and too little.  There are some instances when extra details were not needed (detailed descriptions of people’s clothing and the specific name of each flower).  There are a variety of secondary characters in the story.  I liked Emily’s paternal family, especially Shay.  The paranormal element was intriguing.  I wish we had gotten to learn more about it.  I felt like we just scratched the surface.  The ending seemed rushed and incomplete.  I did not understand the author’s need to introduce a love interest for Emily late in the story.  It was an unnecessary addition and did nothing to enhance the story.  I found myself baffled at times by Emily.  Her dream job is to be an editor with her own clients.  She inherits Lost Coast Literary which is an established agency with clients.  She could be her own boss and get published the type of books she wants (like the manuscript she tried to pitch to her bosses in New York).  I thought she would jump at the chance instead of returning to the cramped New York apartment and being an assistant editor.  There is repetition of information in the story (especially regarding the inheritance, dream job, size of her New York apartment, paternal family abandoning her, dad not providing details on rift) and a smattering of foul language.  I enjoyed reading Lost Coast Literary.  I cannot help but love a story that features books.  I would love to inherit The Ballad (Gertrude’s Victorian home).  Lost Coast Literary is a bibliophile delight with an unanticipated inheritance, a venerable Victorian, a distraught relative, a wonky will, a reticent father, mystifying manuscripts, peculiar coincidences, and missing memories.

Pub in Arcata, California
Lost Coast Literary can be pre-ordered from Amazon*.  It comes out Tuesday, March 29.  Ellie Alexander's next novel is Donut Disturb which publishes June 28.  It is the fifteenth A Bakeshop Mystery.  You can follow Ellie Alexander on Amazon to receive an email when she is publishing a new book. I featured pictures from Arcata, California today which is in the same area as the fictional town in Lost Coast Literary.  There are some beautiful Victorian homes in the town. Thank you for dropping by today.  Tomorrow I am featuring A Matter of Hive and Death by Nancy Coco.  It is the second An Oregon Honeycomb Mystery.  I hope that you have a special day.  Take care of yourself and Happy Reading!


The Avid Reader 

*This post contains affiliate links.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Cheddar Off Dead by Korina Moss

  Cheddar Off Dead

 Book Summary

In Korina Moss's cozy series debut, Cheddar Off Dead, cheesemonger Willa Bauer discovers that her new home in a small Sonoma Valley town is ripe for murder... something here stinks to high heaven, and Willa knows it's not the cheese.

Cheesemonger Willa Bauer is proving that sweet dreams are made of cheese. She’s opened her very own French-inspired cheese shop, Curds & Whey, in the heart of the Sonoma Valley. The small town of Yarrow Glen is Willa's fresh start, and she's determined to make it a success – starting with a visit from the local food critic. What Willa didn’t know is that this guy never gives a good review, and when he shows up nothing goes according to plan. She doesn’t think the night can get any worse... until she finds the critic’s dead body, stabbed with one of her shop’s cheese knives. Now a prime suspect, Willa has always believed life’s problems can be solved with cheese, but she’s never tried to apply it to murder…

 My Thoughts

Cheddar Off Dead by Korina Moss has Willa Bauer opening Curds & Whey in Yarrow Glen, California.  She is hoping for a complimentary review from food critic, Guy Lippinger. Unfortunately, Guy ends up dead after an unpleasant encounter at the shop with one of Willa’s cheese knives in his neck.  The suspect list is small because only the members of her inaugural cheese making class had access to the murder weapon.  The publicity surrounding the murder has caused a lack of customers in the cheese shop.  Willa feels she has no choice but to solve the crime before her shop closes before it even gets off the ground.  Willa gets help from her two employees plus her neighbor, Baz.  The killer does not appreciate Willa’s sleuthing and warns her off.  Willa will need to keep her wits about her if she is solve the case without finding herself facing off with a killer.

Cheddar Off Dead by Korina Moss is the first book in A Cheese Shop Mystery series.  Willa Bauer has traveled since college learning all about the different variety of cheeses available in the world.  She is now ready to open her own shop.  Willa picked Yarrow Glen in Sonoma Valley for Curds & Whey.  It has only been open a short time when the murder occurs. Willa lacked personality.   She is nice, but she is only okay as a protagonist.  We get to meet Willa along with her two shop employees (Archie and Mrs. Schulz), Baz (I love his real name), and various townspeople.  I found the pacing to be a little slow for my liking.  The author provides descriptions on the town, the shops, the people, and various cheeses (this slows down the pacing but allows readers to visualize the scenes).  I liked the various secondary characters in the series.  It is a well-rounded cast that is diverse in age and experience (from teen to retired drama teacher).  The mystery involves a food critic who is disliked in the town.  It was easy to figure out that the nasty critic would be murdered and there is a small cast of suspects.  There are clues to help readers solve the crime.  It is a light, simple whodunit that can be solved long before the final clues are given, and the reveal occurs.  The mystery is nicely wrapped up at the end, but I felt the ending was incomplete (if I said why, it would be a spoiler).  Willa actively investigated the crime by asking questions and eavesdropping on conversations.  She gets help from her two employees and her neighbor, Baz (I like all three of these characters).  Detective Heath is a handsome man (according to Willa) who warns Willa about the dangers of sleuthing. For some reason, Willa doubts the detective’s ability to solve the case.  

My favorite scene in Cheddar Off Dead is when Archie, one of Willa’s employees, comes out in a large cheese costume made by her other employee, Mrs. Schulz.  It is a cute scene.  I hope the author will cut back on romance in future books.  I do not mind a little light romance that plays out throughout the series (I just do not like our fair protagonist admiring the various eligible men and debating the merits of relationships with them).  I read a cozy mystery for the mystery along with friendly characters, charming small town, and that extra bit (whether it is a culinary cozy, pet themed, craft related, etc.).  Cheddar Off Dead is okay, but I do not know if I will continue with the series (it cannot compare to Daryl Wood Gerber’s cheese shop mystery series).  The novel is not long, but it felt like it thanks to the slow pacing and writing style.  Cheddar Off Dead has readers traveling to the Sonoma Valley for delectable cheeses, a knifed critic, several suspicious suspects, an understanding neighbor, eager employees, a dedicated detective, and a curious cheesemonger.  

Cheddar Off Dead comes out Tuesday, March 29 and it is available from Amazon*.  The next A Cheese Shop Mystery is Gone for Gouda which publishes on September 27.  Follow Korina Moss on Amazon to receive an email when she has a new book release.  Thank you for dropping in and reading my latest book review.  On Monday, I am featuring Lost Coast Literary by Ellie Alexander.  I hope that you have a relaxing weekend.  Take care of yourself and Happy Reading!


The Avid Reader 

*This post contains affiliate links.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.