Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great characters, good overall story
Cons: Pacing could have been a little tighter; Aunt Vera’s “powers”
The Bottom Line:
Who killed the head witch?
Dangerous fundraising group
With mystery, clues
When Fundraising Turns Deadly
Crystal Cove used to be a sleepy resort town, but then Jenna Hart moved home. At least that’s what she is beginning to think in the third Cookbook Nook Mystery. After all, Stirring the Plot represents the third murder in three months that Jenna has had to solve.
If you are new to the series, Jenna is running a cookbook store with her Aunt Vera in this town on the California coast. Jenna grew up there, and now that she’s back, she’s reconnecting with friends, some of whom work in the shop with her. She’s even got a new boyfriend. Life would be perfect if it weren’t for that murder problem.
Every October, Crystal Cove is invaded by the Winsome Witches. This group of local ladies use Halloween to put on several benefits raising money for literacy – no actual witchcraft required. The group was founded by Pearl Thornton, and she is still the group’s official leader. However, the morning after a night tour of the city that ends at her home, Pearl is found dead in her backyard.
Jenna’s aunt Vera was a member of the group and close friends of the victim. With Vera feeling the effects of the murder, she begins to poke around, prompting Jenna to search for clues as well. Will the two of them figure out who the killer is? Or will this person conjure up a get out of jail free card?
Jenna does actually worry about being a curse on the town for a little while after the murder takes place, and I found it to be interesting character development for her. On the whole, I like all the main cast, and I enjoyed getting to see them again. They are an interesting bunch, and the relationships forming are fun while leaving room to explore more in future books.
The plot started out well, introducing us to suspects early on and giving us some interesting clues, too. But then the book seemed to bog down a bit. The various activities happening in town give us time to talk to suspects, but I felt it also slowed things down as we had to learn about the events. There was also some rehash of suspects, motives, and clues that felt repetitive to me. However, Jenna pieced together some good clues to reach the climax, which I loved for multiple reasons, so the book had a strong finish.
In the first two books, it has been established that Aunt Vera feels she has a connection to the other world and offers readings of various kinds. That has always bothered me, but here it felt like it was a much more pronounced part of the book. I usually just ignore that part of things, but I couldn’t do that here. Still, this was a minor annoyance to the book.
There is lots of talk of food in the book, which means we get several recipes at the end. My mouth watered reading several of them, and the Pumpkin Maple Syrup Cheesecake is calling my name. I might have to give it a try soon.