Sunday, October 20, 2013

Book Review: Death Al Dente by Leslie Budewitz (Food Lovers's Village Mysteries #1)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Some good elements
Cons: Balanced by equally weak elements
The Bottom Line:
Some elements work
But many still needed work
Average debut

Festive Murder

I keep hearing about new cozy series that sound good, so I keep giving them tries.  Unfortunately, not all of them are the great series starters I’m hoping to find.  (Like I need another new series to read).  The latest series I’ve tried is the Food Lovers' Village Mysteries which debuted with Death Al Dente.  I could see some potential there, but it didn’t wow me.

Erin Murphy has returned to her hometown of Jewel Bay, Montana, to help run the family business along side her mother Fresca.  She has big plans for Murphy's Mercantile, aka The Merc, including partnering with local merchants to market and sell stuff grown and made in Montana.

Since returning several months ago, Erin has been organizing the first annual Fiesta di Pasta, a new event to draw tourists to the area at the beginning of summer.  The Merc and the neighboring bar are hosting the opening night festivities, but when Erin steps out the back gate, she finds Claudette dead in the ally.  Claudette had been an employee at The Merc until several months ago.  Why would someone want her dead?  When the rumor mill and the police, led by Erin’s high school best friend, start focusing on Fresca, Erin realizes she must find the killer in order to keep the family business running.

The pacing of this novel was off.  There were some twists and interesting clues.  However, we also got pages of Erin rehashing these clues trying to figure everything out and not getting anywhere.  Meanwhile, she’d come up with a list of questions, but then not have a chance to ask them next time she saw her suspect.  There were also several sub-plots which could have used better development.

Likewise, the characters show promise but could be better.  Erin and a couple of others were good, and I cared for them.  But there were just too many supporting players, and I struggled to keep them all straight.  They would just all blend together without much to make them memorable.

Even the setting suffered a little.  When we were out in nature, Montana came alive and I was ready to hop on a plane to go visit.  However, the village seemed a bit less defined to me.

If your mouth waters at the Italian food served early in the book, you’ll be happy to find many recipes in the back of the book to help you create a multi-course Italian feast.

Am I glad I read Death Al Dente?  Yes because it sounded fun and I was curious about it.  However, it really needed a bit more polish to truly be a great debut.

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