Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Good mystery and sub-plots populated by great characters
Cons: Pacing a little off at one point, but minor
The Bottom Line:
A killer contest
Mel, Angie baking for lives
Enjoyable as a Dozen Cupcakes
With so many wonderful series out there, I know a few slip through the cracks. I’m working hard on catching up on Jenn McKinlay’s Cupcake Bakery mysteries. With each book I read, I can see why I hear such good things about it. Death by the Dozen was another great read.
It’s time for the annual food festival in Scottsdale, and that includes the chef’s challenges. This year, Melanie Cooper and Angie DeLaura have entered in the pastry division. Their competition includes their rival, Olivia Puckett, who has won for the past few years. Among the judges are several people that Mel knew from culinary school. The egos on the judging panel remind Mel why she didn’t like these people back when she was taking classes from them or with them. The exception is Vic Mazzotta. True, he is a demanding man, but he also helped Mel through a difficult time, and she is willing to put up with him because of that softer side.
The morning of the first round of the competition, Vic is nowhere to be found. When he does turn up, he’s dead in an ice truck. How did he get in there? Which of his enemies killed him? Or was it even murder?
The murder took place a little later in the book than normal for the books I’ve been reading lately, but I didn’t mind in the least. The time was used to set up suspects and motives, and I actually liked the change in formula. Once Vic’s body was found, we were able to jump in and work on figuring out which of the suspects actually did it. I did feel the pacing was a little off in the middle with the competition slowing things down, but a late twist ramped things up again for the great climax. Because of Olivia, I actually cared more about the outcome of the chef contest than I might have otherwise. I think I’m going to have to skim that first book again to remember why she hates Mel and Angie so much.
The characters in this series are quite fun. In another break from formula, the main character’s romance is not the most complicated. Instead, it’s her best friend Angie and their mutual friend Tate who cause most of the romantic sub-plot issues. And yes, it is kept to a sub-plot. While I had hoped that Marty, a character we met in the last book, would be back, instead we got Oz, a great new character. Now I want both of them back in future books.
There is a delightful sense of humor in the series that I love it so much. And I was thrilled to get a couple of the movie quotes that Mel, Angie, and Tate are always trading.
All the unique recipes that Mel creates for the contest are in the back of the book. While I never thought I’d hear myself say this considering the ingredients involved, a couple of them actually sound good enough to try. Now, I just need to get motivated to actually bake again.