Book Review – The Lost Child of Lychford

  • Title: The Lost Child of Lychford
  • Author: Paul Cornell
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/14/2018

**Spoiler Alert** I first starting reading this book months ago – and literally misplaced it. I recently found the book, started from the beginning and started to read – that was three days ago. I absolutely loved the book and finished it quickly. The Lost Child of Lychford is a sequel to Witches of Lychford and the second book in a trilogy. Lizzie, the Reverand Elizabeth Blakemore is getting ready for her first Christmas as Vicar of St. Martin’s in Lychford. She is under considerable stress and not in the Christmas spirit at all – and when she sees a young child in her church, at first she isn’t quite sure the child is even there. She talks to Autumn and Judith about it and realizes that she has seen a ghost.

Meanwhile, Judith is working in Autumn’s shop – but she isn’t the best person to be working in customer service. Judith is also hiding a big secret from her friends.

Lizzie finds the real toddler whom her ghost resembles, a young boy named Jaime, who has two loving parents and a stable home. It’s unclear why the only message the ghost gives Lizzie is “no hurt”.

Meanwhile, Autumn receives an email from Finn of the fairies, she opens it and he appears in her rooms and warns her something is wrong with the magical boundary around Lychford.

Judith, Lizzie, and Autumn start to investigate these two mysteries. But nothing seems to go to plan. When they visit the old tree stump, Judith can tell something is wrong – but she can’t vocalize what it is. Lizzie is so busy with various dinners, carol services, children’s pageants, and a wedding she doesn’t have much time to investigate. Lizzie even leaves as soon as Judith finishes her reading at the tree.

Judith takes Autumn out to the local pub in Lychford, for a night of “divination in beer”. Autumn plays along but clearly doesn’t understand what Judith is trying to do. That night, Autumn meets a man in the pub and goes home with him. Judith goes home as well and has an interesting experience with the ghost of her husband. Within moments – Judith is pulled inside her husband and trapped. Autumn wakes up with a naked man in her bed but scares him off with her intensity.

Lizzie meets with the couple who want to marry on Christmas Eve, and can’t quite put her finger on what is so unusual about the couple’s odd requests. As Lizzie falls deeper into a trance – Autumn becomes obsessed with her one night stand, and Judith disappears.

Autumn goes to visit Lizzie and finds her trying to harm her hands. The ghost insists, “Don’t hurt”. And Autumn realizes her need for her one-night lover is way too intense. Autumn casts an anti-love potion on herself to break the spell (after she and Lizzie visit the young man, Luke, to safely obtain some of his blood for the spell). The spell works and Autumn comes to her senses. They walk to Judith’s house and figure out she’s missing – informing her son, a local police officer. Autumn falls into the same trap as Judith, but Lizzie rescues her.

Lizzie gets back to the church and starts the rehearsal for the wedding. She doesn’t seem to find it odd that the couple has brought strange statuary into her church, nor that the best man is a shadow and the bridesmaids have glowing eyes. She doesn’t even object when she is told to use a ceremonial knife to stab a plastic baby doll. All along, though the ghost tells her – don’t hurt. Lizzie invites the ghost into her rooms, but this doesn’t make the ghost more communicative.

Autumn meanwhile thinks Lizzie is just fine and creates a potion to transfer power to the ghost. Then the young toddler, Jaime goes missing.

Everything comes to a head at Lizzie’s church, where Autumn interrupts a very odd wedding. Lizzie finally breaks free of her conditioned responses. She and Autumn chase after the couple who have Jaime hostage. They inform the police and head to the boundary. The two women confront the spirits, who intend on breaking the boundary, turning it inside out – and stopping time in Lychford. Autumn takes some risks and is able to get help from Finn and Judith. But it is Lizzie who stops the decapitation of Emma by Fairy troops, even though she’s some sort of supernatural creature, who prevents the breakage of the boundary. Judith is freed and the boundary is as before. The three women rescue Jaime and return him to the police and his parents.

This book was a quick read. It develops the three female characters from the previous book and introduces more intrigue in Lychford. I enjoyed it very much and will look forward to reading the final volume.

Highly recommended.

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Book Review – Witches of Lychford

  • Title: Witches of Lychford
  • Author: Paul Cornell
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 04/15/2018

Witches of Lychford is a short book and first in a trilogy. Three women all return to their home town, a small English village, and become unlikely allies in a battle against Sovo – a supermarket chain that wants to build a store in the village. One of the women had actually never left. Judith lives in the village and always had, and has a slightly abusive husband she would never leave. Lizzie returns to the village as the new Anglican priest, but she is having doubts about her faith. Her former best friend, Autumn, has also returned and opened a “New Age” and witchcraft shop. Autumn and Lizzie had a falling out years ago, partially because Autumn was always logical and scientifically-minded. Lizzie is shocked, therefore at the type of shop that Autumn now owns and runs.

But the three all, gradually, deal with the traumas in their past, open up to each other, and work to stop Sovo, which is up to a great deal more than just “bringing progress, jobs and modernity” to the small village of Lychford. It seems the village is a lynchpin – holding a dark, supernatural world at bay. Autumn, who disappeared for two years, had actually literally fallen in to “fairy land” which was not a wonderful place but dark and scary. Lizzie had accidentally pushed her fiancé in front of a car. The accident changed her life. And Judith – Judith is also hiding a secret that is only revealed in the last few pages of the novel.

The story brings these three characters together, and they learn to trust each other. They also learn about the supernatural world from Judith – though each has an affinity for it in their own way. The developing friendship makes the story work. But this also feels, not so much as an “unfinished” book, but definitely the first part of something. I will need to read the next too volumes to see how interconnected the story is. But for now, I enjoyed Witches of Lychfordas a story of the unlikely friendship of three women who are “sisters-in-arms” in a battle against dark forces.

Recommended.

Book Review – Dark Tort

  • Title: Dark Tort
  • Author: Diane Mott Davidson
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 02/25/2018

I enjoyed this book more than the previous one in the series, though there are still the occasional issue. This time, caterer Goldy Schulz, has gotten a regular gig catering the early morning power breakfasts for a prestigious law firm, and the client brunches on Fridays. She’s heading in to the law firm on Thursday night to prep for the next morning’s client breakfast, when she literally trips over the body of the woman she’s meeting, Dusty Routt, a trainee paralegal that Goldy is also teaching how to cook. Why Goldy does her cooking at the law firm instead of her own kitchen is not explained. (It is explained that she can’t use the Roundhouse, her catering location, due to renovations.) Goldy freaks out (not to mention adding to the mess in the office) and actually tries to revive the obviously dead Dusty before running off to call the police and an ambulance. In an attempt to find a phone, Goldy runs into a bit of bad luck – her phone is locked in her van and her keys are missing. She runs across the street, finds an all-night copy center, and uses their phone. The guy working at the copy center is Dusty’s ex-boyfriend.

Goldy was friends with Dusty and her mother, and when she goes to visit the mother and to offer her sympathies, the mother asks Goldy to find out what happened to her daughter. Dusty was a go getter who had managed to (until she was killed) land on her feet, despite some early setbacks in life. This doesn’t prevent nearly everyone from criticizing Dusty for making something of her life despite the setbacks.

Goldy, also, is catering various events – including a birthday party for one of the lawyers, where the theme is based on a piece of artwork that is food themed. The artist, Charlie Baker, was a Colorado native, who, first as a hobby, and later, professionally, created paintings of food, hand-lettering the recipe at the bottom of the painting. The lawyer’s wife asked Goldy to make Journey Cake based on the painting and recipe she was giving to her husband for his birthday. Goldy tries out the cake several times, and it fails each time. She makes an “Old Reliable” cake instead. But the failing recipe isn’t a red herring or atmosphere – it’s a vital clue. And while, it’s easy to figure out that it’s a vital clue (The Purloined Letter, anyone?), the ultimate denouement of the novel is still a surprise. That is, as a reader, it’s easy to tell that the painting and the recipe are important, but it’s still a surprise to find out how and why.

As is usual in the Goldy Bear Culinary Mysteries, Goldy splits her time between investigating the crime(s), digging up clues and gossip, and cooking and preparing her catering events. On the personal front, Goldy is doing much better, and some of the sweetest scenes in the book are between her son and his newly discovered half brother. I hope to see more of Arch and Gus in future books! Goldy seems less hands-on in investigating Dusty’s death, more of passing gossip and info to the police, and urging people to come forth with what they know. As usual, there’s a life-and-death struggle at the end with the murderer, which I’m not going to spoil.

The social scheme for this book is Dusty’s class and background and her mother’s. Davidson condemns Dusty and her mom as “welfare people” – even though Dusty has a full-time job, a college education, and is enrolled in paralegal school, with plans of becoming a lawyer. Her character of Goldy doesn’t seem to really condemn the 18th century attitudes of the people in Aspen Meadow. Goldy herself doesn’t seem as keen to take on a murder investigation either because of her class issues. There’s less ridiculous attacks on the police, local, and Federal government in this book than the previous one, though. In fact, because the victim was raised in a poor family (or at least not stinking rich), Goldy seems willing to leave it to the police. At least Goldy isn’t accused of murder again.

Dark Tort is a fun and very quick read. I enjoyed that part of the book. Recommended.

Book Review – Double Shot

  • Title: Double Shot
  • Author: Diane Mott Davidson
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 02/19/2018

I really enjoyed Chopping Spree by the same author but was disappointed by Catering to Nobody which I read years ago. Unfortunately, the first half of this book reminds me of the later not the former. The first half of this book, especially the opening chapters have Goldy Schultz, caterer and amateur detective making a lot of stupid mistakes for plot reasons. The book starts with her heading to her new catering building, the Roundhouse, for a catering event, as she’s walking from her van to the door, she’s attacked, run down by someone on foot, and hit on the head. To her credit she calls the police right away to report the attack.

Now, if you had been attacked at your place of business – would you (a) sit and wait calmly for the police to arrive, (b) call your best friend for help, (c) call your insurance company, (d) go into your business – shoot up the place yourself, and then “clean up” destroying all evidence of the attack? Well, guess what our protagonist does. Hint: she acts like a dingbat. Yep, she calls her friend, then cleans up all the evidence of the attack – all the spoiled food, the broken glass, the mice – every thing.

This is monumentally stupid. As a business owner – she must have insurance on her building and equipment. If she doesn’t, she’s extremely dumb and naive. Also, she may have to carry the equivalent of malpractice insurance – what if she serves food to someone and they are allergic to it and they sue her? But no… Goldy decides to call her best friend, Marla, who arrives before the police (because apparently her little community of Aspen Meadow has the world’s slowest police department), and the two go inside – where they discover tons of damage. Everything in the cooler is spoiled because the cooler was turned off. Bags of mice are on the floor. Dishes and such are broken. Does she call her insurance company? Start taking pictures with her cell phone or a camera? Go back outside and wait for the cops? No – Goldy shoots at the mice with her handgun, then cleans the place up. She throws out all the spoiled food, disposes of the broken glass, lets the mice outside, and drops her gun in her unlocked van. Doesn’t this woman have insurance? Doesn’t she know you need to document damage if you want to make an insurance claim?

Goldy pushes through and puts together an improv catering event since all her prepared food is gone. The catering event goes reasonable well, but her ex-husband, released from jail on a technicality or something, harasses her outside, demanding she bring her son, Arch, for visitation outside the planned time and threatening her. Course, Goldy takes this to mean everyone will think less of her , so she agrees with her ex-husband’s demands.

When Goldy goes to drop off her son, though, her ex never answers the door. Goldy goes to check the garage and finds him dead. The rest of the novel is a standard mystery. There are plenty of clues and red herrings. Goldy is actually picked up by the police and questioned in the murder. This actually makes a certain amount of sense on the part of the police, especially given Goldy’s stupid actions earlier.

Double Shot rests on a series of family connections, old secrets, and rivalries. That part of the book works. The looming threat of forest fires permeates the rest of the novel. This “Checkov’s fire” does and does not actually get realized fully (the conclusion is set during the fire – but the fire never threatens Goldy’s home or place of business). And, unfortunately, nearly every detail of how forest fires in the US are fought is out-and-out wrong. For one thing, if the forest is in a National Forest US Forest Service fire fighters will be fighting that fire. They are paid Federal employees (with their own families, children, and bills) not volunteers. If the fire is on State land, most Western states have their own Fire Service (I know California does). But throughout the story, Ms. Davidson refers to the fire fighters on the Federal Wildlife Preserve as, “local volunteers from Aspen Meadow”. That’s not how it works. Even if a local department works on a fire, they will work with state and federal agencies. That is what an Interagency Fire Agency is for. But enough ranting, just because I have experience in supporting fire fighters as an admin/IT Tech…

Getting back to the book, Goldy and Marla precede to investigate – to clear Goldy, and to figure out who did them the favor of offing their ex. The perpetrator is an expert at laying false clues, exposing secrets, and throwing blame in a number of different directions. I liked that part of the book. I liked it a lot. If only the story had just picked up about 50 pages from where it did and followed that storyline, it would have been a five-star book. I’m not going to spoil who the killer is or why – because that is the best part of the book. The last few chapters of the book, as Goldy puts it together and tracks down a killer are well done. I hope that future Goldy Bear Culinary Mysteries are like Chopping Spree and not like this one.

To sum up, things I didn’t like about Double Shot: the protagonist, Gold Schultz, who is now married to a police officer and has solved mysteries for twelve books now, apparently has no idea how to act when victim of a crime herself, doesn’t bother to document damage to her business, never calls her insurance company, and thinks the best way to dispose of mice is to shoot them with a .38 handgun. Yeah, that will work. There are other issues – one of the secrets uncovered is a major crime that no one reported at the time, that essentially ruined the lives of several people in the novel, and seriously, exposing the person responsible for the crime, especially as there were witnesses, is a better solution than murder. One of the mustache-twirling villains of the book is a county health inspector, who acts in a very unprofessional and illegal manner, but who also, at one point grabs Goldy and hits her. That’s assault. This character did it in front of witnesses. Not only can Goldy have him fired – she can have him arrested. Government employees cannot go around beating up caterers. That’s just not how it works. The forest fire in the background really adds to the atmosphere of the story, but I truly wish the author had bothered to do at least some research – because she got everything wrong. Fires in National Forests are fought by the US Forest Service firefighters – some of the best in the world. Fires on state lands are fought by state fire services. Even local fire departments are usually professionals, not volunteers. The fire fighting methods weren’t detailed enough or really correct. But on the positive side, once the book gets in to the mystery it moves at a fast clip. the descriptions of food in this book are mouth-watering, it reminds me of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe novels in that respect. Here’s hoping the next one is better.

Book Review – The Cater Street Hangman

  • Title: The Cater Street Hangman
  • Author: Anne Perry
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/20/2017

**Spoiler Alert** In many ways, The Cater Street Hangman starts off in a similar way to a “romance of manners” rather than a mystery novel. The Ellison family have three girls. The oldest, Sarah, is married to Dominic, but they still live in the family home. The second daughter, Charlotte, is a forthright and honest girl that the parents, Edward and Caroline, fear will never marry. If, like me, you’ve read other books in this series you know that isn’t the case. The youngest, Emily, meets the young Lord Ashworth and immediately sets her sights on him as a future husband. Emily’s parents and both her sisters discourage her – as they are middle class, Lord Ashworth is above Emily’s station, and the family fears he will hurt her in the end to marry for money or family connections.

A maid of an acquaintance is murdered, as is the daughter of another middle class family. The women are garroted in the street – a horrific crime. Then the Ellison’s maid, Lily, is murdered. Inspector Thomas Pitt informs the family and begins to ask everyone questions, so he can learn what he knows to solve the crime. Sarah instantly dislikes Inspector Pitt, and frequently insults him – of course, this means they are fated to fall for each other.

Edward consistently insults Inspector Pitt and tells him their business is none of his. Pitt is a policeman, whether Edward likes it or not, asking questions is his business. Much later in the book it turns out the reason Edward is reluctant to provide an alibi for his maid’s murder is that he was not at his club as he first says, but visiting his long-term mistress. A woman that his wife and daughters know nothing about. When they find out, it causes considerable hurt and pain to the household.

For a time, Sarah and Charlotte secretly suspect Dominic – in part because he is also being cagey about his whereabouts. But Dominic is true – he has no mistress, and although he enjoys a bit of gambling, and staying out with men at his club – he is no murderer. Sarah’s suspicions drive a bit of a rift between the two anyway. It’s also revealed that Charlotte had a bit of a crush on Dominic for years – but she knew that Sarah loved him so she never did anything about it. Over the years the two have developed a sibling relationship rather than a romantic one.

Caroline, Sarah, and Charlotte all try to convince Emily that she is aiming too high in pursuing Lord Ashcroft. By the end of the book – he proposes secretly, though due to events it will be a while before he can work things out with Edward and propose formerly.

Essentially the same thing happens with Thomas Pitt and Charlotte. Their squabbling turns to admiration, especially when Charlotte visits the police station to give Pitt some information and evidence – and is confronted with the realities of Victorian life for the poor, the suffering, and even the “criminal classes”. She’s shocked, but to her credit, she’s sympathetic to those less fortunate than herself. By the end of the book, it’s clear the two are meant to be together, and it’s no surprise when Thomas proposes in secret, then remarks he must work things out with her father. As this is the first book in the “Thomas and Charlotte Pitt” mystery series – and I’ve read later books where the two are married and solve crimes together – this is absolutely no surprise whatsoever.

The book moves along, mostly centered on the Ellison family. Caroline and Sarah are very involved with the local church, working with the vicar and his wife in good works. Throughout the book, especially as she has fears for her marriage, Sarah becomes more and more involved in her charity work, and going on visits in the parish. Pitt strongly advises the girls to never go out alone. None of them really listen.

Sarah is then murdered in the same fashion as the other women. The Ellison family is shocked. Charlotte is attacked and discovers the murderer at the same time. She’s rescued by Pitt and the murderer is arrested.

Much of this book is devoted to the daily life of the Ellison sisters, and much of that involves their interactions with the vicar and his wife. Charlotte despises the vicar – he’s sanctimoneous, and pompous. But he also blames the poor for being poor, claims that “loose morals” are the fault of women, condemns unfortunate women for their own situations, etc. He even claims that the maids and young women were murdered “because they deserved it” for not being “good Christians” and “moral people”. He’s a piece of work, and for much of the book – I suspected him as the murderer. It turns out to be his wife – who’s both bat-shit crazy and a secret lesbian. Sigh.

That the murderer was the vicar’s wife was quite the surprise. That she’s a lesbian and denying her feelings her entire life drove her to it – was, um, very uncomfortable. The “crazy lesbian” trope is damaging and really deserves to be laid to rest. I had thought this book was from 1990, but checking the copyright page – it’s from 1979. That explains the hurtful explanation for why the vicar’s wife suddenly decides to start killing the women of her parish (she apparently believed all these women were making passes at her, something she felt was “sinful” and deserving of death). But it doesn’t excuse the author’s use of a hurtful “explanation” for the five murders.

Overall, although at times the book is slow reading, and the ending has definite issues, this is a solid start to a well-known mystery series.

Book Review – Death of a Gossip

  • Title: Death of a Gossip
  • Author: M.C. Beaton
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/06/2017

I picked up this paperback, which turns out to be the first Hamish Macbeth mystery, quite some time ago, and finally got around to reading it. I liked the Hamish Macbeth mystery television series, which aired on BBC America quite some time ago, and which I have on DVD, so I thought I would like the mystery series, but really… well, there are a lot of issues with this book.

The story concerns a couple in the tiny village of Lochdubh in the Scottish Highlands who run a “fishing school”. That is, every week during the Summer a small group of tourists stays at the local one and only hotel, and the couple teach them fly fishing. This year’s group, though, includes Lady Jane Winters – a horrible woman who insults everyone, is outright mean, and goes out of her way to hurt people. She even threatens to expose everyone’s secrets and “dirty laundry”. It should come to no surprise when she’s murdered.

However, it literally takes nearly 100 pages before she is murdered. So for the first 100 pages of the book, rather than following a typical cozy mystery format, we are “treated” to a treatise on more than I ever wanted to know about fly fishing, plus some characterization of the tourists in the fishing school, and a few characters who I would suppose are regulars in the series, including Constable Hamish Macbeth. You’d think this would be “background” and technically it is – but it’s also annoying. I wanted the book to get to the point, and I found the frankly sexist portrayals of the women in the group to be pretty awful. Lady Jane, the one person who’s background should be filled in, is a blank slate – other than manipulating the reader to really hate her. Then there’s a young girl, a secretary from a big accounting firm in London, who has a crush on her boss, falls in love with a young aristocratic man, lets him talk her in to sleeping with him – and believes all along that he will marry her. Of course, she’s dead wrong – and he runs off with Daphne – the brainless airhead bottle blonde that he accompanied to the hotel. The reader knows the whole affair is doomed, and the secretary comes off as incredible naive and even dumb. Not to mention that the secret in her closet is: she had been through the exact same thing before. Everyone else’s secrets are similarly silly, especially once Hamish gets to pull the “gather everyone in one room to solve the case” scene.

Once Lady Jane is murdered, the DI from the nearby city shows up, takes over the case, and throws his weight around. This DI is a brute – he bullies everyone, suspects, tourists, locals, and Macbeth. He’s also apparently dumb as a post because he can’t find a single real clue.

Hamish does some investigating as well, on the sly, as the DI has forbidden him to get involved. In the end he gathers everyone in the hotel parlor, reveals all the secrets everyone has kept (turns out Lady Jane was a gossip columnist for a London tabloid), and tries to needle someone – anyone – into admitting they killed Lady Jane. The killer turns out to be a sociopath who essentially kills Lady Jane for looking at her wrong.

Yep.

Needless to say – this makes no sense. It’s like the author gave up and pulled a name out of a hat to reveal as the killer. It’s almost like a parody of the “fair shot” mysteries of the 1930s, where the author included all the clues so the reader had a fair shot of discovering who the murderer was before or at the same time as the detective. Macbeth also later admits he was “guessing” about the identity of the murderer (though he may have been lying at the time) and refuses to take credit, allowing the world’s dumbest DI to take the credit for solving the case. Besides the horrible portrayal of women in the book – the native Scottish Highlanders, especially Macbeth, are portrayed as lazy and not too swift. Macbeth, however, and this was true in the television series at least, is like a blonde woman doing a “fluffy bunny” act – he’s pretending to be slow, so that people will under-estimate him. He also, again, definitely in the television series – but never mentioned in the book, has no desire to be promoted. He loves Lochdudh, his dog, the Highlands, and his life, and promotion would mean relocating to a big city. In this book, he does seem to be pretending to be slow, but his motivations for doing so are completely ignored. No mention is ever made of way he tends to act like a total idiot.

The point-of-view of the book is omniscient, with considerable time spent getting in to the heads of the various characters staying at the hotel, especially the secretary. It would have been better if the story was actually told from Macbeth’s point of view. At least that would have made the story more like a traditional mystery (in either third person or first person).

Finally, the book itself is only 205 pages. The rest is made up of advertisements and sample chapters. One sample chapter is barely acceptable in a paperback book, but three (roughly 80 pages)? That is highway robbery – another reason this book gets a low rating. Although I can honestly recommend the television series, Hamish Macbeth starring Robert Carlyle (The Full MontyOnce Upon a Time) as the titular character, I cannot recommend this book. It’s the first in a long series, so the series itself may improve later, but overall – Death of a Gossip was full of holes and annoying stereotypes.

Book Review – Chopping Spree

  • Title: Chopping Spree
  • Author: Diane Mott Davidson
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/28/2017

Goldy Schultz owns “Goldilock’s Catering: Where Everything is Just Right!” and she is now quite successful, making several thousand dollars a month from her catering company. She’s so successful that she is starting to burn out – not on catering, but the constant work is leading to exhaustion and insomnia. Her best friend, Marla, is concerned about her – and her son is acting out. This is the background to about half the novel.

Goldy is contacted by an old college buddy who now works as a manager at the local high class shopping mall. He hires Goldy to cater an event at the mall for the Elite Shoppers Club – people who spend $1000 or more per week at the mall. The friend, Barry, keeps telling Goldy he has to talk to her, especially on the day of the event. However, with one thing and another – they never talk. After the event, as Goldy goes to pick-up her son’s birthday gift (paid for but stored at the store where she bought it) and then to get the final check from Barry for the catering – Barry is murdered. Since Goldy is found knocked unconscious by his body – the police at first accuse her of killing him. They then accuse and arrest one of her catering assistants because he found Barry’s body and tried to take the knife used to kill him out.

Goldy is quickly cleared – but not so much her assistant, who happens to be a close, personal friend of her family (especially her son), and he’s kept in jail. Goldy, between trying to take care of herself, trying to repair her relationship with her teen-aged son, her getting ready for additional catering events by preparing food, tries to get her friend out of jail, and despite numerous warnings, investigates the case.

Goldy ends up inheriting Barry’s dog, who had initially been taken in by Barry’s neighbor. The dog proves to be crucial to the case, and Goldy ends-up at Barry’s house, investigating – and discovering evidence. She’s attacked by the murderer, but manages to knock him out, then calls her police officer husband, who had been barred from the case since it involves family. The case is wrapped up.

Background to the book includes Goldy running her catering company, actual recipes in the midst of the book (which I found annoying, actually. I would prefer if all the recipes were at the end of the book), and a “shopping addiction” group. That many of the suspects were spending way, way beyond their means for one reason or another, and therefore might have a reason to dispose of Barry both gives the book flavor and forms the Red Herrings of the book. For example, the husband of one addictive shopper who constantly competes with her wealthy gold-digger sister, claims that Barry was blackmailing him – he also owes the mall thousands in back rent, that he never paid, due to his wife’s shopping habit. The AA-style meeting Goldy attends is brilliantly written.

The final discovering of evidence scenes as well as the confrontation with the actual murderer were also well done. It’s a surprise, but the clues were all there – and certainly something did seem suspicious about what was going on – that led to the murder.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was a quick read. The catering background was interesting and a bit different. All the characters, many of whom are probably regulars, were well-drawn enough in this book that it was interesting to read about them. I didn’t feel at all that the supporting cast was flat – a danger in any cozy-style mystery. Goldy’s first husband was also extremely abusive – both physically and mentally; when she witnesses a couple going at each other at the event at the mall – it brings up bad memories (and leads to one of the more plausible red herrings). That Goldy’s second husband is a cop with the local sheriff’s department makes sense – he probably rescued her from her ex-husband. Goldy’s issues with her son (from her first marriage) seem to be mostly typical teenaged stuff and her son probably feeling a little abandoned by her sudden focus on her business. The background material at the mall and with the AA-style group for compulsive shoppers also was surprisingly sensitive and well-written. The casual racism towards the Hispanic construction workers at the mall not so much though.

Still, this is a fun, light mystery with plenty of inside details on how a catering business works including some delicious-sounding recipes. Recommended.